28 February 2009

lobster ravioli with a bisque sauce

click image for detailed slideshow

use any combinations you feel you want really. I used:

the filling

contents of one small lobster - this yielded 120g
1 lemon, zest & juice
parsley, fennel herb, chives
optional 1 whisked egg white to lighten it

  • chop the above ingredients maintaining texture
  • fold through your egg white whip if using

the bisque sauce
lobster shell, or prawn shells and heads
brandy & white wine
quarter onion or half shallot
teaspoon tomato paste
1 fresh tomato
parsley, fennel herb & chives

  • roast your lobster shell to become brittle & intense
  • cook the shell & the bisque ingredients to make a stock for 20 to 30 mins
  • cool & blitz all the ingredients, inclusive of shell, to a purée, if your processor can take it!
  • sieve vigorously through a muslin to avoid shell powder
  • to produce your lobster bisque base
  • reduce the sauce by half, & add a little double cream

home-made pasta for ravioli

click image for detailed slideshow

ingredients for 2 generous batches
10oz semolina flour - durum flour - '00' flour, try gran mugnaio if you see it
3 whole eggs

special kit = pastry scrapers, pasta machine

  • make a mound with your salted flour
  • press a whole egg in the top and break your eggs into the hole
  • work the mass together
this particular own brand, Waitrose semolina flour was very dry - I don't like to add water to pasta so mixed in some olive oil to dampen it, plus an egg

  • carry on kneading the dough together for at least 10 mins, use a timer. the texture should be dry but it transforms to satin
  • leave to rest, covered, for 30 mins at room temperature
see here for how to freeze pasta, for convenience & how to rework it,
it does still work very well indeed
  • flatten your other half pasta ball, set your pasta machine to it's highest cog, and roll through, fold over, and roll through a second time
  • manipulate the cog down one
  • fold your pasta, process it through the lower setting, fold again & process again
  • it gets quite long and stretchy to manipulate as your go on
  • take the sheet down to the second to last notch, on an Imperia machine - not too fragile

for ravioli - a half ball of above ingredient amounts is used here
  • cut the sheet into 2 matching lengths
  • we're using a tray here, flour it very, very well indeed - don't be shy
  • lay one sheet loosely over the ravioli tray

  • and fill your individual rav slots evenly, keep the surface flat and level for the pasta top
  • brush each rav square edge with a little water (egg white won't seal)
  • lay top sheet of pasta & roll it firmly left to right into place with a rolling pin, this will remove air pockets
  • turn out your ravs & flick off the flour residue with a pastry brush
  • cook your pasta in plenty of salted water at a gentle rolling boil for approx 8 - 10 mins

serve with your chosen sauce to accompany your chosen filling

see also lobster ravioli & bisque sauce

27 February 2009

guinea fowl pancetta, mascarpone & sage

by Arthur Potts, in the Observer: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/apr/29/foodanddrink.features6

120 mil mascarpone

juice and zest of a lemon
sea salt & pepper

4 slices pancetta

1 guinea fowl, boned
(reserve the legs)
handful sage leaves - 10

  • season the mascarpone with a little lemon juice, half of the lemon zest & s & p
  • roll mascarpone up inside pancetta slices
  • slide your thumb under the skin of the guinea fowl & and carefully ease in a sage leaf and the prosciutto parcel.
  • cover back the skin and repeat with the other side of guinea fowl.
if this fails, make a pocket in the guinea fowl instead and create a seal with the skin
  • pan fry, inclusive of legs, with a little ev olive oil, skin-side down, on a medium heat for at least 12 minutes before turning over and cooking for a further 8 minutes.
  • add the remaining sage leaves to the pan.
  • when the guinea fowl is cooked, remove the legs, add the remaining mascarpone into the pan with the rest of the lemon juice and shake the pan.
  • serve the guinea fowl halved on a plate and drizzle the pan juices over.

seared wood pigeon & leaves

2 wood pigeon breast
1 tblsp ev olive oil
2 tblsp walnut oil
half crushed garlic clove
fresh thyme
warm cooked new potato
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
*curly endive, or frisée leaves (I couldn't get the crisper leaves & used green beans and oak leaf + iceberg here)

  • Mix olive & walnut oil with garlic, half the thyme leaves, s & p. Reserve.
  • Sauté the lardons on medium for about 5 minutes until brown. Remove from the pan & reserve
  • Add the wood pigeon breasts to the oil, then cook for 3-5 minutes on each side.
  • Remove from the pan and leave to rest.
  • Add red wine vinegar into the hot pan - bubbling it down for a couple of seconds & add it to the oil mix
  • Toss it in a bowl with the leaves
  • plate up
  • drop lardons over the leaves.
  • slice the pigeon breasts and place on top, tipping over any juices.

25 February 2009

le champignon sauvage restaurant, cheltenham

it's that time of year where I'm hunting for somewhere to go eat for my birthday I don't like dining on a different date, so this has been the first time in 3 years I've been able to go back to le Champignon Sauvage, a 2* michelin resto just 2 streets away, that is closed Sun/Mon

here's the menu that greets us
: food click on the zoom icon, then drag your cursor round the page to read

Our table is booked for 7:45 & on our prompt arrival we are met with 4 members of staff. It's not fully booked then.
Which never bothers us, we don't mind being the only souls in a restaurant - but we muse about hard times hitting the restaurant industry, & whether some out-of-the-way places have the resilience for difficult times ahead - my husband thinks Cheltenham is remote.

Over a gin-tonic & a prompt amuse-bouche - we read the menu.
I can eat anything presented to me, save the rabbit tortellini starter that has a vanilla purée. I've had vanilla dishes before, & as with the addition of chocolate into savoury plates, it doesn't please me very much.

So our starters are to be:
- celeriac lasagne, sole, cockles & sea beet & for me
- roast lobster with miso glaze, oat groats risotto, onion & orange spiced bread both are delicious.

Tony says his fish lasagne is the second to best starter he's ever tasted. The first was in Brussels somewhere.
My lobster is a sweeter flavour than I expect, I put it down to the miso. The oat risotto is sticky as a pudding texture would be. I enjoy it tremendously. The lobster pieces are a little firm.

Another interim appetiser arrives. I do so enjoy these. It's a cumin & cauliflower smooth glass, I can't detect the cauli much over the roast cumin hit. & it reminds me of our soya milk at home.

Nice though.

We've worked on our main dishes, and go for the Winchcombe venison, its bolognaise, chervil tuber purée, liquorice root jus
We used to live next door to the great church in Winchcombe & I recall our walking with 3 times the normal weight
boots - completely clay sodden - around the C12th Hailes Abbey, when a deer jumped right out of the hedgerow in front of us. This gives me the chance to employ that well used remark I don't know who was more astounded & guess the deer didn't sense our footsteps, dulled by the mud.

so we have .......... that local venison,
& I really desire fish, the zander, carrot star anise purée, duck heart & green raisins, coupled with a red wine foam that doesn't feature on the menu.

It's stunning dining. We are both rather quiet picking at every morsel combination before us.
and the flavours are harmonious.

However, there is a downside to note, which is true each time we have eaten here. The main star of the plate (be it fish or game or cinderford chop) plays second fiddle to the sophisticated creativity.
The venison is not melt in your mouth, the zander isn't distinctive in its own right, it's disguised too much by the duck flecks around the plate.
& I recall a lamb meal on another occasion that was overcooked.

But we are easy diners, and it doesn't really matter - it's just a remark.

No puddings for us, & we point out some cheese, this is a portion for one.
Another dainty appetiser arrives, one of my favourite things = a beignet with onion marmalade


Working clockwise as instructed on the cheeses, I eat mine with caraway thins, & Tony uses the fine breads
.... we go
from the selles-sur-cher (one of my favourite cheeses)

we seem to be working exponentially through the scoville scale of cheeses.
..... to the last one, an epoisses, is devastatingly strong. I am asked if I can recreate the breads - so my husband is really enjoying the baked side accompaniments.

Two coffees now for us, & a generous display of little sweets and chocolates. I have to move them away from Tony who cannot tolerate a biscuit.

& I indulge myself on 3: the coconut block, the sticky
turrón - nice, and the dusty cocoa cone - filled with a fruit cake centre.
Another one would be to force things & spoil it. So we end our meal with that hot vat of dark coffee.

We haven't stinted ourselves on anything, and our bill is £140 for 2, yes it's a lot of money but we've only been out for an indian once this year
- inclusive of 2 bar room gins, a half bottle of Tindall sauvignon blanc 2004 & a bottle of 1998 something I can't remember but it tasted of sloe & was a lighter wine, as we had asked, a supplement on the lobster starter to consider, & a bottle of water too.
It would be easy to get that price way down.

Just one critique if I may, perhaps it's the layout of the dining room, but there is something overly subdued about the restaurant.

Nonetheless, you do have a sensational meal there though.

23 February 2009

spaghetti with chilli & garlic infused oil

probably my favourite spaghetti dish


spaghetti, cooked to al dente
spanish extra virgin olive oil
crushed garlic
green chilli, or red, finely chopped

  • very gently cook the garlic & chopped chilli in a glass of Spanish ev olive oil, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes
  • drain your pasta, adding a dessert spoon of the water back into the spaghetti - leave to settle for 2 minutes
  • toss your spaghetti back into your infused oil sauce
  • optional - dress with parmesan if you wish

cottage cheese & marmite ryvitas

of course my husband makes a song & dance when I open my jumbo jar of marmite.
it's all show though, I know that

these are my favourite snack, no cooking involved


sesame or the dark brown ryvitas
a scraping of butter
a spreading of marmite
plenty of cottage cheese a-top

You'll develop the thirst of a rabid dog for the remainder of the day after several of these.

22 February 2009


Elisa in Brussels started a discussion about briks at the BBC messageboard, and the majority of us didn't know what they were, so we decided to find out:
they're flexible, manageable fine pastry sheets from North Africa
fabulous for crispy rolls & nibbles

how to make your own briks/malsouka if you have difficulty getting hold of them

ingredients - for chicken ones
briks sheets, bought or made
cooked chicken, mine was poached
1 lime juice & a little sugar
chopped chilli, garlic, ginger & shallot
fresh coriander & mint
shredded carrot & courgette strips

or Indian style samosa ones here

  • sauté shallots, ginger, garlic, chilli,
  • add shredded carrot & courgette for a moment
  • add lime & sugar mix
  • cool & add the chicken pieces to the filling

to fold your briks

  • place your chosen filling at the bottom end of your wrap towards you, leaving half an inch
  • fold over the bottom edging ( although I start with the side first in the images!)
  • fold over the left and sides edges
  • & roll into a cigar spring roll shape
  • protect individually with the wax sheeting the briks were packaged in

you can get small triangle shaped samosas, by trimming your briks into 4 strips:
  • to cook, no need to oil your wraps, just place them in the oven on a non-stick baking sheet for 20-25 mins
  • turning for even brownness
they're crispy outside, & here's the filling inside your briks:

21 February 2009

malsouka wraps

click image for detailed pictures of the process

I'd been trying to find 'briks', terrific semolina eastern wraps, in the Cotswolds but getting no joy.
easy enough in London & France, but they are nowhere to be found here.
So, I decides to make my own - great fun! have a go.

malsouka, aka malsouqa, briks, warka,
the recipe I followed was from Aicha here:
250 g de semoule très fine de blé dur 1 grosse pincée de sel, de l'eau
Fait une pâte avec la semoule (simple sans levure), le sel et juste ce qu'il faut d'eau pour qu'elle soit homogène et ferme. Laisse reposer 1 heure

250g fine semolina,

salt, water,

a little oil for the pan

sieve flour & salt, and create your mix by adding water, little by little for that elastic texture. Leave batter to rest for an hour

  • and now you are going to paint the briks, slim flexible batter wraps, onto a non-stick pan heated over a pot of boiling water. I used my old Ken Hom wok
  • brush a thin layer of flavourless oil round your pan
  • be bold, brush over your batter - thicker rather than thinner strokes
  • stand back & wait for the edges to curl, about 1minute, to show your wrap is cooked
  • lift off your malsouka and place on a paper towel
  • paint your next one continuing until you have sufficient
note: next time I'll paint them square shaped, they must be easier to fold shaped like a diamond

the spring roll wraps/ samosas

  • place your chosen filling at the bottom end of your wrap towards you, leaving half an inch
  • fold over the bottom edging
  • fold over the left and sides edges
  • & roll into a cigar spring roll shape
  • no need to oil your wraps, just place them in the oven on a non-stick baking sheet for 20-25 mins, turning for even brownness
the filling
for indian style chicken & peas
samosas/ rolls

finely chopped raw chicken, garlic, half onion, sautéed
dried ginger, cumin, coriander, fresh chilli, mango powder, half teaspoon indian curry paste
cubed cooked potatoes & frozen peas added towards the end

open bake roast direct on the oven bars ...

as you see in French towns,
industrial chicken rotisseries with their catchment of potatoes in the base
obviously you can only do this if your oven is very clean, mine is washed every time I use it

chicken & potatoes
  • place a potato inside the chicken cavity, and butter the skin or rub it in your oil of the day
  • put your peeled potatoes, sometimes I use whole baby ones, in a tray underneath, but proud of the meat
how you cook it is up to you, all produce delicious chicken and potatoes
  1. at 150 gently for 2hours30, to 3 hours, protected by a square of foil
  2. high for 20 mins protected by a small square of foil then down to 170 for 1hour30 - 2hours
  3. layered in 2 coats of foil, baked for 3hours untouched at 170
  • rest the chicken in foil, keep the potatoes high in the oven to crisp & keep warm
  • de-glaze the juices with a glass of wine, reducing for your sauce

the same deal with lamb
I couldn't barbecue - my husband never was a fan - so in order to make this dish
indian style roast lamb

I had to improvise


1 leg of lamb
& potatoes

The marinade
5 fl oz greek style or natural yogurt
3 crushed cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tblsp ground cumin
1 tblsp ground coriander
1 tblsp chilli powder
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tblsp vegetable oil

the cucumber raita
1 grated cucumber
spring onions or chives, finely chopped
tub greek style yogurt
salt and pepper
& mint

  • prick holes in the lamb, combine the marinade ingredients and rub over the lamb. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  • place the lamb directly on the oven bars, with the potatoes underneath to cook in the juices.
  • turn periodically for an even bake, and slow roast for 2hours30 - 3hours
  • allow to stand for 10 minutes or so before serving.
  • make the cucumber raita by combining all the ingredients.

carve lamb into chunky slices, serve with the raita & potatoes.

20 February 2009

canal du midi painting

another painting moment along the Canal du Midi. This is how it looks, it's bliss

During the summer, I have a month and a half off of cooking, we eat in restaurants or the street bars of towns and cities we pull into. It's a wonderful time of the year that I love to try to capture in oils if I can.

We pack up our little car - it looks as though it only has one more year of life in it, sniff - cross the channel, and head into France & Spain.
My plan is to paint, and my husband's is to perfect his swimming stroke.

One of the best destinations we've been to, was along the Canal du Midi in a little hire boat, very Rick Stein!
I can recommend it to anyone who is undecided. We used crown blue line, they were impeccable, but not all companies are as professional I'm told by the locals.
I felt so affected by it, I thought you might like to see the painting I had made as a gesture of that time.

The back parcel shelf is the area for my painting kit, plus stretchers and 10 canvas, it's tight, but we manage, inclusive of Tony's fins and snorkelling aids.

I get strange looks, but the first task is to build the stetchers/ frame up - el marco in Spanish I discover - and stretch that canvas 1/10 as tight as I physically can over the square framework.

I then prime it, so that the oil paints are fast, and don't rot the canvas material.

This particular painting of the canal du midi starts life as we step off our little barge boat at the marina of Colombiers, near Beziers.
We've navigated the excrutiating 7-lock stair system that is
les écluses de Fonserrannes, so we rest the next day.

It's 40 deg and I'm under the sun umbrella with lashings of bottled water, starting my painting of the scene before me: 3 pretty boats.
I don't mind the interest it attracts & happily splash and dash.
The waiters from the local restaurant stand beside me for company, chatting whilst sucking at their well earned cigarettes.
It's then that I find that the 3 boats I'm painting, are the homes of said waiting staff at the Chez l'Eclusier restaurant we enjoyed so much the night before.

This is as far as I get, very simplistic, just covering the 1 yard X 1 yard canvas as a whole with the impression before me.
I take it off the stretchers the following morning, roll it up still wet & sticky - but I have no choice, until my return to the UK where I intend to build upon my thoughts of the place.

I'm not painting the boats, I'm painting the life, the canal, the still, the green, the sloth & the pride that the waiters expressed to me whilst watching me work.
It's a residue feeling in me, not a holiday snap shot.

I've still yet to frame it, that's the finishing flourish of my work, but can take months or years to get around to.

chorizo & oregano spicy sticks

delicious! click on image for slideshow


100g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 scant tsp light soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pimentón picante or mild chilli powder
small pinch cinnamon
50g wholemeal flour
3 tsp dried marjoram or oregano - I used fresh from the garden
50g unsalted butter, softened
8 - 10 thin slices (scant 30g) chorizo
50ml cold water

  • Stir the plain flour, soda, sugar, salt, pimentón and cinnamon together then sift this into a mixing bowl, tossing back in any bits caught by the sieve.
  • Add the wholemeal flour, marjoram and butter and rub with your fingers until the lumps of butter disappear.
  • Very finely chop the chorizo and toss this through then add the water and work to a soft dough and knead until smooth.
  • Flour the work surface lightly, roll the dough into a rough 20cm square, roll these with your hands under the flat of your palms, pressing the dough onto the work surface, into long pencil-thin rods then cover and leave the dough to relax for 5 minutes.
  • Cut strips about a cm thick and roll these as thin as you can without breaking; if you can get them between 1/2 - 1 cm thick then you're doing well.
  • Place these on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
  • Egg white wash sticks for a shiny presentation
  • Heat the oven to a low 160C (140C fan) and bake for about 30 minutes.