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Sat, 01 Jul 2017

Garlic Chicken

This is a recipe that I think originally came from Jean-Baptiste Reboul's book La Cuisinière Provençal written in 1910. If you can find this book anywhere, buy it. It starts with a whole chapter on the concept and theory of Pot au Feu.

This is dead easy. You need a cast iron of earthenware pot with a lid. Start by placing 40 or 50 unpeeled cloves of garlic in the bottom of the pot with a little olive oil. In French we call this "ail en chemise", garlic with its shirt on. Separate the cloves from the head of garlic but do not peel them. And yes, I said forty or fifty cloves of garlic, more if you want.
Place a chicken (with some lemon slices inside the cavity) on top of the "pearly bed" of garlic and place the pot under a hot grill in the oven (without the lid on) - this serves to brown and crisp the chicken on top.
While your chicken is getting crisp under the grill (just a few minutes) mix some flour and water to make a bread dough. Remove the pot from the oven when the chicken is nicely browned, stuff all the fresh herbs you can find around the chicken (rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, basil, whatever you've got), add some salt and pepper, and place the lid on the pot. Seal the lid hermetically onto the pot with the bread dough all around the joint and place back in the oven (normal oven settings, switch off the grill) at 160 degrees for 1 hour and a half or two hours, more for a big chicken. The idea is to cook everything slowly inside the sealed pot and enable the garlic cloves to stew in the juices.
Bring the pot onto the table and break open the bread dough around the lid to release the fabulous aroma of garlic and herbs when you open the pot. The stewed garlic cloves pop out of their peel like butter, spread onto country style bread and eat with the chicken.

posted at: 14:52 |[/cooking] permanent link


Wed, 10 May 2017

El Portalet again

Duck roll with mushrooms, foie-gras, crispy nuts and maple syrup
Raspberries and pistachios with hibiscus, vanilla and yoghurt cream
Soft and crispy chocolate with coconut and cereals, salty praline and apricot sorbet
Peach fritter with almonds, passion fruit, and maize-curry ice cream

posted at: 00:00 |[/cooking] permanent link


Fri, 14 Oct 2016

Wrap Snack

I have invented a new snack or fast-food. Someone should do a food-truck or themed restaurant around this concept.

The idea came from:
- an obsession with using up left-overs and little bits of this and that in the fridge (from where the Sunday night pizza tradition comes)
- my local supermarket selling good quality wraps

You need a non-stick frying pan with a tight fitting lid just the right size.

- Put your wrap into the (cold) frying pan.
- Add your topping (see below)
- Cover and heat for a minute on a high heat then put the heat right down, do not open the lid and do not heat on a high heat for too long or your wrap will burn underneath.
- Cook for two or three minutes

The secret is not to put too much topping, the wrap crust underneath has to get crispy not burnt and the ingredients on top should be cooked so if you are really hungry make two - too much topping won't work. For a more substantial snack, you can add an egg. In this case put your ingredients around in a circle and break the egg in the middle so it doesn't go walkies.
Suggested toppings (which I have tried) but you can invent your own, which is the whole point of this concept:
- Ham and blue cheese
- Smoked salmon, horseradish, sour cream and lemon wedges
- Cooked spinach leaves and feta cheese
- left-over Chili con Carne with parmesan
- just a little tomato sauce, mozzarella and anchovies (classic pizza)
- chopped tomato, goats cheese with a dribble of runny honey
- cooked chicken bits with smokey barbecue sauce or (better) Caribbean Jerk sauce


posted at: 16:16 |[/cooking] permanent link


Thu, 25 Aug 2016

Home Made Cheese

We went to a car boot sale and purchased, for 5€, a SEB (c'est bien) cheesemaker machine dating from the 1960s by the look of it.
Really cheesy orange and white plastic design, I don't think it had ever actually been used.
Anyway, after experimenting with a delicious goats milk cream cheese, we have just made a wonderful cheese with fresh milk from the Pyrenees (see photo). Half of this is "maturing" with a view to making a sort of camembert while the other half is getting eaten very quickly.

posted at: 17:15 |[/cooking] permanent link


Wed, 24 Aug 2016


We've had some hot spells this summer and I've been doing a lot of Mediterranean food. This is a designer variation on the classic Greek dish inspired by a travel programme I saw on TV.
- Mince beef and lamb (50/50) and fry in olive oil with some onions
- Once the meat is browned add crushed garlic, a chopped chilli and some ground cinnamon, mix well for a few minutes and then add crushed tomatoes and a little red wine. Cook on a low heat.
- Heat a cast iron griddle (I use the ribbed side so as to obtain a pretty criss cross pattern on the vegetables but the flat "plancha" side will work also)
- Peel and chop a large round potato into 7mm (1/4in) slices. Brush with olive oil and place on the griddle. Once they are browned on one side turn them over
- Chop a large aubergine into similar slices (keep the skin on), brush with oil and place on the griddle with the potatoes. Depending on the size of your griddle, you may have to do all this in batches. Finely chop any left-over aubergines bits and add to the meat mixture.
- Make a bechamel sauce with salty butter and flour, add a little white wine and when it starts to thicken add some milk. Sprinkle ground nutmeg. Once the sauce is cooked through and quite thick, crumble in some feta cheese and parmesan, mix well until the cheese is melted. Let the sauce cool a little and add an egg, mix well.
- Heat the grill in your oven. As the moussakas are finished off under the grill in a hot oven, you can even cook the vegetables and meat in advance and allow them to cool, which makes the next step a lot easier
- On an oven proof plate you now assemble the individual moussakas. I use stainless steel ring moulds to keep the shape but this is not absolutely necessary providing you take care when adding the different layers. Start with the bottom layer of potato then add a little meat mixture then a slice of grilled aubergine then a little more meat and repeat the whole process.
- Pour over a little cheesy sauce and place under the hot grill until the cheese topping is browned.
- Serve with a salad (Greek obviously)

I have also done a vegetarian version of this recipe replacing the meat with cooked green lentils, delicious.

posted at: 12:04 |[/cooking] permanent link


Wed, 11 Nov 2015


It's been ages since I made this classic dip, I'd forgotten how simple to make and tasty it is. The secret is having the right size blender: not too big as you end up pushing the ingredients back down in the bowl to get properly blitzed; and not to small or you end up overflowing.
- put a tin of (cooked) chick peas and some garlic cloves (the number depends upon how garlicky you like your hummus) in the blender
- Add the juice of a lemon and some tahini (ground sesame paste, it can be found in most oriental markets)
- Start blending and add olive oil slowly until you obtain a smooth consistency
- Season with plenty of pepper
- Add a little cream or, better, fromage blank to lighten
- Decorate with sweet paprika and olive oil and serve as a dip with pitta bread

posted at: 18:42 |[/cooking] permanent link


Thu, 08 Oct 2015

Cold almond soup

This is a really interesting soup, deliciously surprising.
- soak some white bread in a little water (cut the crusts off first)
- Take a similar amount of almonds (ie: equal amounts of bread and almonds) and grind in the blender
- Add two or three cloves of garlic and the soaked bread, grind a bit more until you get a paste
- Add a little sherry vinegar
- Slowly drizzle with olive oil and keep blending in the mixer until the resulting "paste" become smooth
- Add water slowly until you obtain the required consistency: the soup should be slightly thick but not too watery
- Season with plenty salt and pepper and place in the fridge to cool for at least 2 hours or more
- This soup need to be served very cool, you can add a couple of ice cubes before serving if necessary
- Decorate with roasted almonds and deseeded grapes (black and white)

posted at: 19:22 |[/cooking] permanent link


Fri, 12 Jun 2015

Polenta with sour cherries

Our friend Balazs brought us a jar of sour cherries from Hungary so I used them in this starter, inspired by the Tables des Cordeliers restaurant in Condom (see here)
- make some polenta according to the instructions on the packet, add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a little grated parmesan. Press down into a square or rectangular dish and put in the fridge to set.
- Reduce some sour cherries in their juice with a little red wine vinegar and some sugar. Crush the cherries into a pulp and boil until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Remove the pips from a few fresh cherries (I have a de-pipper designed for olives but it works for cherries too)
- Add the fresh cherries to the sauce for just one minute so they heat through
- slice "fingers" of polenta and place them under a hot grill until they are heated through and starting to "toast" on top
- decorate the polenta slices with small squares of feta cheese and the fresh cherries
- garnish with the hot cherry sauce

posted at: 21:02 |[/cooking] permanent link


Sun, 22 Feb 2015

Baked Turbot

I came across this beast at the fishmongers, absolutely divine.
- make some diagonal incisions in the fish.
- Rub some salt, pepper and herbs (thyme is good, oregano or rosemary too) into the flesh
- Place the fish, dar side up, in a roasting pan
- Drizzle with olive oil and a little white wine
- Place some lemon slices on top
- Bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes or more for a big fish

posted at: 11:52 |[/cooking] permanent link


Thu, 30 Oct 2014

Guinea Fowl with autumn fruit

We have a lot of fruit in the orchard and it's been a bumper year for figs.
- melt some butter in a small pan and skim off the white impurities that come to the surface, these are the bits that can burn. The result is "clarified butter" but you can also use Ghee from India, which is the same thing.
- Mix the melted clarified butter with some honey and baste a guinea fowl all over. Season well. Place is a roasting pan. You can also use a small chicken.
- Cook in the oven at 180°. For a guinea fowl the total cooking time will be about 45 minutes, you will need longer for a chicken.
- 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the following mixture to the pan:
      - peeled and chopped pears
      - peeled and chopped apples
      - roughly chopped walnuts
      - quartered fresh figs
      - some raisons and sultanas
- the bird should be golden brown when ready, with delicious crispy skin. You can serve as is, or carve the meat and serve with the fruit and couscous (photo right)

posted at: 12:00 |[/cooking] permanent link





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