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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

salted almonds

I love to buy a particular brand of salted almonds when I'm in France but I have not seen them elsewhere on my travels. To get over this geographic hurdle I have taken to making my own and although they are not quite the same thing, they do come pretty close to it! You only need a couple of hundred grams of whole blanched almonds (available in packets from most supermarkets), about 5 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste.

Fresh almonds, blanched in boiling water and thoroughly dried would be the ideal way to go but finding them is also a geographic nightmare for most people. Pre-packaged almonds in their skins from the supermarket must be blanched, peeled and dried too before cooking.

Heat the oil in a small, heavy based frying pan and add the blanched almonds. Gently cook until lightly browned all over. Try not to burn them. Turn out, using a slotted spoon, place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

Spread a piece of baking paper/greaseproof paper on the bench, liberally sprinkle with salt and toss the warm almonds on top. Roll the almonds around in the paper until well coated and serve immediately. Any leftovers can be stored in a screw-top jar for later use.

salted almonds printer friendly version, click here:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

bocconcini & fennel salad

With the aid of a mandoline, fennel, shaved, takes on a completely different guise. Deliciously palatable sliced wafer thin it transforms this otherwise hard, course vegetable. This recipe, is similar to my last but with two important changes: substitute bocconcini mozzarella for gruyère and add raspberry vinegar to the olive oil, for an extra sugar hit. Pears provide freshness while fennel provides sharpness and bocconcini mozzarella with prosciutto go hand in hand. This salad makes a lovely, simple but interesting lunch. Garnish with a few chopped herbs for extra colour and flavour.

Serves: 2

1 large ripe pear, diced
1 small fennel bulb, shaved on a mandoline
1x100gm packet prosciutto, chopped
4-5 baby bocconcini mozzarella, halved
1-tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1-tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parsley and fennel fronds to garnish

Mix together all the above ingredients and ENJOY!

bocconcini & fennel salad recipe, printable version, click here:

Friday, April 15, 2011

mushrooms with verjuice

Verjuice is the juice of unripened grapes picked just before verasion, the stage at which the colour turns, generally about two months before harvest.  Verjuice is made in the following way:

Carefully wash and de-stork 1.5 kilo of grapes and drain thoroughly.
Whiz the grapes in batches in a food processor then press them through a fine sieve to remove the pulp and seeds. Pour the extracted juice into a jug and fill ice-cube trays. Freeze immediately to avoid oxidization. Yield = 700ml = 40 ice-cubes. Defrost and use as required.

Verjuice is used to deglaze the pan after cooking fish or chicken as an alternative to lemon juice. Also excellent in a salad dressing when a little tartness is required. It is both acidic and tart without being harsh and when heated it gets very sticky – great for an instant sheen! Verjuice is available commercially but it’s fun to make your own.

After cooking sliced mushrooms and garlic in a little extra-virgin olive oil, I add a good splash of verjuice. I rev the heat up to its highest point and cook them until the liquid is completely reduced and the mushrooms have taken on a brown sticky sheen. The subtle flavour of lemon juice compliments the mushrooms making the dish more interesting and adds a refreshing taste sensation. Parsley over the top after cooking is a must. Mushrooms, parsley, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and lemon is one of the TOP 10 dishes in the world for health and well-being.

mushrooms in verjuice printer friendly version, click here:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

prawn thyme!

We all love basil with tomatoes – yes, they are a marriage made in heaven BUT French tarragon with tomatoes is even better. Probably the last herb one would associate with tomatoes but you will be surprised how good they taste together.

Think outside the box for prawns too. On the plancha, most people would add chopped parsley but try fresh thyme instead, storks and all. It is quite something!


As many large, unshelled, green prawns as you can eat!
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, halved
Freshly picked thyme

Take a flat plancha if you have one otherwise use a frying pan. Smear some extra virgin olive oil over the surface with kitchen paper and rev up the heat. Scatter some sea salt over the plancha/frying pan and toss another pinch or two of sea salt over the green, unshelled prawns. Place the prawns, side by side; on the hot surface and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until they are pink, and the juices caramelize. Try not to overcook them.

The sea salt does three things: it stops the prawns from sticking to the plancha/frying pan, it brings out the natural juices and then it caramelizes them.

Transfer the cooked prawns to a warm serving dish, scatter over the fresh thyme, a drizzle or two of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Place the other lemon half on the side of the serving plate.

Never mind your sticky fingers, just enjoy them….   

prawn thyme printable recipe, click here:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

hot olives!

The olive branch has long been the symbol of peace and the silvery-leaved olive tree considered sacred since early times, as far back as the 17th century BC.

Whether you are an olive lover and especially if you are not you'll be amazed how different the taste and flavour of olives is enhanced by the introduction of heat. Place the fruit briefly in the oven or in a little olive oil in a saucepan and heat until warmed through. This simple little trick makes them more palatable as well and it doesn't matter about the quality of your olives. The olives in this photograph are out of a jar from the supermarket and warmed up they were truly delicious. Remember though, the taste and flavour or any olive variety depends on when the fruit was picked and how it was processed and heating can only do more good than harm.

Monday, April 4, 2011

tomato confit

The use of the word ‘confit’ seems to have etched itself into our modern day recipe language and is used to describe all manner of things. Once upon a time it only related to a method of preserving duck or goose. The terms means: ‘to cook (something) in its own fat’. The ancient way, still practiced, is to salt duck or goose legs overnight to extract as many juices as possible then slowly cook them, submerged in their own fat, for a very long time on a very low flame. Once cooked the meat must remain under the liquid flat until the fat sets solid. A sterilized spoon is used to dig out each portion of duck then they are cooked in a very hot oven for about 10-15 minutes until hot and crisp.

Confit tomatoes are quite another story and I use the term purely because the dish is considered to be one of those universal dishes and is more likely to attract attention than simply calling it ‘tomatoes in olive oil’! The tomatoes, once cooked must stay submerged in the olive oil. Using the same principle as above: to keep air out.

Preheat oven to 180°C

20 whole, ripe, vine tomatoes
Olive oil to cover tomatoes
Sea salt
White pepper
1-tablespoon thyme leaves only
1-tablespoon fresh rosemary, needles only
1 bay leaf
1-teaspoon sugar
3 cloves garlic, sliced


Wash, dry and cut tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds and membranes. Place the tomatoes, cut side down, in a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Pour the olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, slivers of garlic and herbs and sugar. Cook for 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Pack the tomatoes into a container/jar and pour the oil over them ensuring they are completely covered. The tomatoes keep for 4-5 days refrigerated.

Suggestions: great in pasta, salads, with goat’s cheese or ricotta.

tomatoes confit printable recipe version, click here: