Friday 31 August 2012

More than a little soup...

A "demi-tasse" or half cup of soup is ideal for a small starter or amuse-bouche.  But to serve a small potion, it has to be special, rich and make you hungry for the next course...

Here, I made a mussel and safron cream with a pinch of spice. Rich and creamy... it is like taking a big spoonful out of the middle of a luxury pie!

You need a handful of mussels per serving, some of their cooking juices and some cream.  You can start off as a white sauce with a little butter melted and some flour adding in equal parts milk and mussel juice (which you strain and don't put in the last bit in case of sand).  In goes the saffron, just a pinch, whisk and reduce for ten minutes;  then, add the cream and reduce until you have a luxurious velvet texture.  Add the mussels and a pinch of chilli off the heat so they warm through  and serve.

Simple, small, but so much more than just "soup".

Thursday 30 August 2012

Léa's Dinner...

On Tuesday evening, we were invited to a delicious birthday dinner cooked by our friend's 18 year old daughter, Léa.

Tartar of sea-bream in lemon juice with red onion.

Marinated veal with capers and parmesan cheese and a dusting of "piment d'espelette".

Fillet of beef with summer vegetables.

Farm cheeses with fig jam.

Home-made ice cream with kirsch and candied orange.
In the back ground you can see her father's magic, yes the best macarons in the world....
M.C La Maison du Macaron

Happy birthday Christian, we had a very lovely evening. x

Wednesday 29 August 2012


So, it is honey time again (twice a year).  There is a lot less honey this year and we decided to not remove too much either so the hives stay strong for winter.  The kitchen is turned into a lab for the honey over two days.  

These are the frames that are full of honey.

The front and back of the frames have a wax covering.  This wax is removed with a knife (called uncapping).  It is done over the metal "bin" frame holder on the left.  The wax falls below and will be transformed into candles after melting and filtering out the impurities. 

The frames are placed in the honey extractor.  Our extractor is electric and will spin in both directions to get out all the honey.  

From the base tap, we remove the honey which goes through a series of three filters, which removes wax and impurities.

 Then, through the final filter and into the settling tank for a few days so as to let the impurities rise to the top.

Here, it will stay for two days before the top is skimmed and then, using the tap below, put into jars.

Two days later!

Sunday 26 August 2012

And we are back...

So, we return fully rested and recharged of energy after an agreeable holiday (more posts later).  Lots of projects and plans for the "rentrée"...

So, I bought a lot of fish as it was so so fresh from our new fishmonger yesterday.  This evening, we had some brill (barbue in French) from the same family as turbot (less the price tag).  It was excellent, firm in texture with delicate taste.  I pan fried it in olive oil and a touch of butter. Think more of a poach on a mid heat for a few minutes, slowly and turning once, letting it rest a few minutes at the end.  I served it with a spaghetti of cucumber which takes 30 seconds to just heat through and some basmati rice.  Adding some fresh herbs with salt and pepper to the cooking juices and drizzle a little around .

This afternoon, we spent at our friends house/shop.  They deal in antiques and 1930 style furniture, a style a lot in demand at the moment.

Their garden has a lake with swans and a pond...

They have a lot of stock and if you like something, buy it because it goes quickly.  They are also amazing interior designers, you can see the interiors next time.

Have a good week...

Sunday 19 August 2012


Having a wonderful time visiting and eating.  So much to see.  I always love visiting the Rideau Falls when we come to Ottawa; it has such a good view and the smell of fresh water with the noise is really wonderful.  There is a Van Gogh exhibition on here too, which we got to see.  A beautiful part of the world...

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Postcard from Ottawa...

Having a great time seeing family and getting lots of inspiration from everywhere to bring you new recipes when I get back.  Ivan x

Saturday 11 August 2012

Canada here we come...

Oh the guilt... why I fall for it is beyond me!  My parents are en route all the way from  London (as  someone has to take care of their son's house and someone else theirs! - it's not easy going away!) to spoil him rotten (Thank you - I don't deserve you!). 

So we are off to Canada to visit my partner's family (hi all x).  We are very excited and looking forward to seeing everyone.  I still will post from my phone (hopefully!) as there are some really nice restaurants. Better continue with the packing minus a pug! Have a good weekend all...

Friday 10 August 2012

Did someone say... MUSCLES?

We have a new fishmonger that just opened today (very excited as it is one that buys its stock straight from the boats and the quality is amazing - not a massive choice, but I quite like that -we have been known to drive up to the coast just for fish, for special dinners!)

So, to prepare mussels - a few pointers.  Once you have removed the side beards and thrown those that are opened away, rinse and change the water three times making sure that you move them about so they change their water as if it was a tide.  Let them rest a few minutes each time.  As for the cooking liquid, either cream or wine, reduced by half so as to get a better base flavour and it also allows your herbs and seasoning  to infuse for about 7 to10 minutes on a mid heat.  Keep an eye on the cream though!  The mussel juices will run into the reduction and the marriage will be complete.

One of my loves (yes another one!) is this :

First sent over by my excellent friend Harriet from New York, I always get some when I am in Canada. Amazing stuff, but you can achieve a nice version at home with three bay leaves and some cayenne pepper (not the same but it will have to do!!)

So, prepare the mussels. Into a large saucepan (with the lid nearby!), heat a cup of cream and add your 'Old Bay'  about half a teaspoon or three bay leaves (if fresh roll them around  your fingers to release their oils) and add a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Mussels in on a high heat and cook a few minutes until they are opened.

We had the compulsory baguette to finish the mussel sauce and thrice cooked "frites" (I need a whole post for those!!!)

Lunch on our new deck with a begging pug couldn't have been better!

Thursday 9 August 2012

A cake for Harriet.

This little addition to the "appéritif" circuit is quite Moorish.  Generally served warm, these cakes are quite dense in a rich sense of the word, which goes perfectly with a pre dinner drink or two!  As for what to put into them is really up to you, generally there is one sort of cheese, some herbs and a third element like a cured meat, some nuts or a vegetable - let the experiments begin! (Goat cheese and mint is a favourite I do remake!)

Today I have gone with bacon, parmesan and rocket/arugula...

 This is for two small 'cake' tins worth (or a small loaf tin if not).

200g(0.85 of a cup!) flour
3 eggs
60g/quarter cup parmesan cheese
120ml/ half cup of milk
60ml/quarter cup of olive oil
 handful of chopped rocket/arugula
7/8 slices of chopped cooked bacon
salt and pepper

Mix the flour and cheese and add the eggs, milk and oil.  Once well mixed, fold in the rocket, salt and pepper.

Into the oven at 180°C/350°F-  cook for about 35 to 45 minutes. 
Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Endives/chicory my way...

This is a classic recipe that I prefer to slightly alter to improve it to my taste.  Endives can be somewhat  bitter - so I like to salt them for 30 to 40 minutes to draw out the bitterness.  

So, for 6 endives half them, salt them with 2 teaspoons of salt getting into the centres on the cut side and let them drain as you would  for an aubergine.  Then, rinse under running water and drain.  Meanwhile, slice 2 or 3 onions and cook in a non-stick pan with butter until brown and sweet.  Remove and set aside.  In the same pan add the endives, cut side down, and brown off for 7 minutes until browned and all liquid has evaporated.

Into an oven proof dish, place the onions in first (adds sweetness), then the endives cut side up.  Spoon on 6 to 8 full teaspoons of mascarpone cheese evenly, but keep whole as they don't really melt and it is really nice to come across them while you are eating.  Sprinkle some finely chopped good quality ham, about 4 slices. Top this all of with a grated hard cheese of your choice (I used some Comté) - about a cup.  Sprinkle with black pepper and parsley.  Finish off in the oven on a medium/high heat or until it has coloured about 20 minutes.

It ends up feeling a bit lighter and there is enough moisture from the endives without swimming in sauce.  A  touch of richness coming from the mascarpone, which provides the balance to the dish.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Ravioli of smoked salmon.

 Need I say I love these... or any ravioli to be accurate!
There are a few ways to make them (another few posts!), but this way is the quickest and there is little waste.  The filling can be changed or adapted.  In fact, half the fun is to have a different filling every time!

This makes 24 raviolis.  I serve about three for a small starter, but we managed the same again as there was seafood to follow!

You will need 300g flour and three eggs (see pasta post).

200g (8slices) smoked salmon, whiz up in a blender and add 80g of  thick cream or ricotta cheese.  Add also one egg yolk (put aside the white for sealing the pasta).  Some pepper, but no salt as there is enough in smoked salmon.

Roll out the pasta and paint the egg white all over the strip.  Put the filling onto pasta (tip: spoon out the portions before so you have the right number and don't run out!).  Fold the top strip of pasta over, press around the filling and fold over the lower side.  As in the photo, press around and expel any air softly.  Shape them until you are happy and seal the ends with the fork.  Trim and put a fork impression on top so they don't burst (air inside is not good!!).  Place on a sheet of floured parchment paper so they don't stick.  I let them rest for an hour maximum as I don't like putting them in the fridge because they tend to get  too moist.  I choose a cool place and cover well with a clean tea towel. If you really have to chill them because of timings, use the vegetable section of the fridge and place kitchen paper over them loosely to help reduce moisture, but keep an eye on them and no more than a few hours as they will dry and will not taste the same.

To cook, just plunge into a large pan of boiling water and once they float, count to ten and transfer to the awaiting sauce in another shallow pan.  The sauce I used here was just reduced cream (crème fraîche) and a touch of butter with fresh chives.  Add the pasta water if the sauce is too thick as it should be light.  Dish up with your own added style and bon appétit!

Saturday 4 August 2012

Broccoli and a kiss of soya sauce!

Obviously not a lot to add, but as always, it's all in the execution.  Chose firm compact heads (always trim the root and put in water to give it a drink for a few hours or over night if need be).  I like to slice the broccoli into slices (depending on size, but about 4 to 6 slices).  The ends tend to go to florets, but the middle stalks are also really good.  Into a very hot non stick pan, a little olive oil and don't move around so they brown.  Lid on and turnover after 2 minutes and repeat.  De-glaze with a table spoon of soya sauce or so (mind as it will spit) and leave off the heat, but let stand for a minute with the lid on.  Serve with more soya and black pepper, we had it with simply grilled cod.  


We were having some retail therapy this morning in the delightful small town of Cormeilles.  There are a few very good antique and food shops!

Friday 3 August 2012

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

If you are looking for a different border plant for your garden, that tops 2.5 meters (and you can eat it!), this is for you!  I absolutely love collecting the seeds at the end of the summer (and eating the foliage all summer long).  It is such a treat to eat the fresh seeds before they harden.  Not to be confused with dill, the subtle aniseed taste goes wonders with fish, vegetables or pork.  In fact, I use the seeds for home-made sausage and in of my favourite pasta dishes native to Sardinia - recipes to follow!

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Grilled black peppered chicken, salad with parmesan dressing and flat bread .

The flat bread

425g bread flour (here I used wholemeal organic) and some for dusting
300ml warm water
25g fresh yeast
1 teaspoon of honey
1 heaped teaspoon of salt

Make as pizza post, just to the point after the first rise.  Then cut into 8 pieces about 90g each.  Form into rounds with the seam underneath and then roll back and forth to about 20 cm long.  Put bread (extra flour on them) onto barbecue at about 200°C/400°f a few minutes each side. The oven is also fine, but they will need longer.

The salad

 I like this simple dressing and it has to be on a firm leaf like iceberg salad or a frisée salad or endives, as it is heavy.

40g parmesan cheese grated
2 tablespoons of home made mayonnaise  (or not!!)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of water (or a light vinegar)

 Whisk the water into the mayonnaise and add the oil slowly and then the cheese.

The chicken

Just hammer out the chicken quite thinly, sprinkle with black pepper, celery salt and smoked paprika and grill for a few minutes on each side and let rest.  Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze.

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