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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

game pithiviers

These lovely little savoury pies are my favourite things to make at the moment. Filling ideas are endless but as we're in France I couldn't resist using duck confit and pigeon breast. The two ingredients so hard to find elsewhere.. well  that's not entirely true but at least here duck confit can be bought all ready to go which saves hours of time..and we have a local pigeon farmer. Substitute quail breasts for pigeon for ease if you have trouble sourcing them and use a mix of minced veal and duck beast instead of duck leg confit.

The other thing worth noting is the pastry. Here too in France I can buy fresh puff (or any other kind for that matter) in the cold fridge in the supermarket. It's superior pastry and the cooked result is perfect but whatever you do buy puff pastry don't bother to make your own, it's far too time consuming for this.

Recipe is for 6 pithiviers:

Roll out your bought puff or sheet pastry and cut out twelve (12) 10cm circles with a fluted cutter. Place these circles onto baking paper on a large baking tray (or 2 small) and place in the fridge. 


2-3 sheets of puff pastry
2 duck confit legs, shredded and blitzed briefly in a mini food processor
8 quail or pigeon breasts, finely diced into tiny tiny cubes
1 large carrot, streamed, diced into tiny tiny cubes
1 packet fresh spinach, wilted in boilng water for 1 second and dried out with paper towel
salt & pepper to taste
1 whole egg whisked
25g fresh breadcrumbs
a few fresh French tarragon leaves chopped (or use thyme if you like, instead)

To glaze: 4 egg yolks - NO whites, please


Oven to 230 C

Mix all the above ingredients together except the pastry and egg yolks.  Remove the ready cut circles from the fridge and brush all twelve with egg yolk and place 60g of the mixture into the middle of 6 circles. Place the other 6 circles over the top but upside down so the egg side is facing down and over the ingredients. Squash out all the air and firm the sides of the circles with your fingers. Brush egg yolk all over and place in fridge for 15 minutes. Remove, brush again with more egg and place back in fridge for another 30 minutes or until you are ready to cook which might even be the next day. DO NOT cover the pithiviers at any stage of this procedure.

When you want to cook them take the next size cutter, 9cm, and recut them so the edges are neat discardng the rough edges.. Gently flute the edges at intervals wth a knife and lightly score the tops for presentation sake. Bake on the baking paper on the tray (s) in a very hot oven, 230C for exactly 15 minutes. Remove and rest for 5 minutes.

Serve with a madeira jus and a little oiled salad on the side or whatever takes your fancy.

Once you have mastered the technique required to make pithiviers use your imagnation to invent novel ideas to fill them. 1 pithivier (pronounced: pee thiv ee ay) is enough for each person as a starter with garnish or for lunch with perhaps a more substantial salad on the side.

Have fun!

duck breast carpaccio

Serves 4 as a starter


1 duck breast, fat removed
fresh rocket
hazelnuts, chopped
rind of 1 orange
1 small fennel bulb, grated

for the sauce:

juice 1 orange
10ml hazelnut oil
10ml extra virgin olive oil
10ml sesame seed oil 
10ml balsamic vinegar
10ml light soy sauce
pinch of ginger powder
salt & pepper 


Wrap and place the duck breast in the freezer and leave for 1 hour to firm up enough to slice..
Mix all the sauce ingredients together and leave to one side.

Remove the duck from the freezer and slice either on a machine or by hand into very fine slices. Spread the rocket out onto a serving plate, lay the duck over the rocket. Moisten with the sauce and garnish with hazelnuts, fennel and orange rind.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday night pasta

The final of the Australian Open is on tonight and my Djoko is up to grab the title, fingers crossed and I'm not prepared to miss one little bit of it. So am I being lazy or what? Yes, probably but with good reason. Here's what you need to do for a stress free night when you can put your feet up and enjoy this quick pasta dish - tennis and all. 

Cut a whole heap of washed baby tomatoes in half and place them in a microwave proof dish.

Chop up two garlic gloves in tiny pieces and scatter over the tomatoes.

Then scatter on some dried chilli flakes.

Add some washed and dried salted capers.

Sprinkle on a teaspoon of sugar (I use raw).

then add 3-4 chopped anchovies (optional).

Finish with a good grinding of black peppercorns but go easy on the salt if using anchovies.

Tear up a small handful of fresh basil leaves and give the dish a generous slug of extra virgin olive oil.

Microwave on high for 20 mins. Set aside to cool.

Add to cooked pasta of your choice - fettuccini or spaghettini work well -  turn the tomatoes gently through the pasta to incorporate.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan, a little more torn basil and add extra anchovies if desired.

Eat well and enjoy with a nice glass of red. Here's to Djoko. Cheers!

Monday, January 5, 2015

pomegranate honey

Thanks go to both the food writer Charlotte Wood and Lucy Dodd's food blog Nourish Me for the superb idea of mixing pomegranate seeds and a little shaved skin of the whole fruit into a jar of honey. What could be easier, tastier and better for you and it's a cure for a sore throat as well!

There's nothing to this other than I've stated above. Use a lemon zester if you have one or otherwise use a very sharp knife to finely slice up a little of the skin avoiding the white pith. Wear gloves and an apron when cutting the fruit (pomegranate stains are almost indelible). Cut a whole pomegranate in half and either bang out the seeds or squeeze them out by hand making sure there is no white membrane attached to them. Drain away any juice and reserve on the side to drink later.

Pour a jar of honey into an airtight container, add the drained seeds and the peel and close tightly. Leave in the pantry for a couple of weeks for the flavours to marry. The colour and texture will change to a pinkish hue and will have a thiner consistency. Place in the fridge and simply top up with more honey, seeds and peel as the level goes down with use.

Divine served drizzled over ice cream, yoghurt or on salads or anything that compliments a sparkling sweet-tart flavour.

Pomegranates are loaded with potassium and vitamin C. The seeds are translucent, luscious,  brilliant-red and jewel like. This would be a perfect accompaniment to a Christmas feast and I should have posted this recipe for Christmas this year but like everyone, time got away from me.