Monthly Archives: February 2010

A hint of spring?… Forced rhubarb is in season

>Portobello market yesterday morning. I caught sight of the first “forced rhubarb” of the year… This signals in Britain that, against all evidence, spring is on its way… Albeit, this is not the greenish, leafy rhubarb we will get in April-May but its crimson sister, less fibrous and just as sweet. I’ve just learned that “‘forced rhubarb” is grown in dark sheds and almost by candle-light so that the stem shoots out looking for light and does not produce the large leaves you expect for the lack of light prevents the photosynthesis. Hence the harvest is of these long, crimson stalks that are as sweet as a fruit, although this is of course a vegetable.

Spring rhubarb and custard pie

Ingredients list:

  • A few fresh raspberries or strawberries
  • 1 roll of all butter puff pastry
  • 3 or 4 stalks of rhubarb, chopped finely
  • Sugar 150g
  • Egg 1
  • Crème fraîche 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla sugar 1 tbsp or a few drops of essence

Lay the pastry into a quiche tin. Then beat the egg with the cream and vanilla sugar and spread on top.
Cook the rhubarb in a pan with the sugar and stir for 10mn on medium flame. Do not overcook so the stems don’t des-integrate too much or loose their blush.
Spread the fruit on top of the custard mix and bake in a very hot oven at 200 C. for 10 to 15 mn. You must make sure the bottom oven is very hot so the under-pastry cooks wells and does not get soggy.
You can decorate with fresh strawberries or raspberries when in season so the pink theme is nicely highlighted in the presentation!

This is one of my children’s favourite pies…
And because the custard is already inside the pie, you don’t need to do anymore then serve it.

>Precious berries in the snow, half-eaten by the chamois!


Sorbier des oiseleurs, le délice des chamois 

Feeling in desperate need of a strong pick-me-up…

>Back from a week skiing in fantastic conditions but now I desperately miss the sunshine and the “Vin chaud” we left behind… So here is my attempt at the lovely beverage distributed almost every evening in the station by a group of weathered and seasoned ski instructors!

 Vin Chaud de la Clusaz

250 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
500 ml syrah  wine – A spicy Costieres de Nimes is perfect!
1 Cinnamon stick
Pinch of chilly flakes
1 tbsp of grated nutmeg or cloves
1 tbsp of ginger
1 tbsp of cinnamon
1 small glass of cognac or brandy

Warm it all up in a large pan, turn off at the first bubbles and serve in mugs.
Perfect after a ride on the skidoo or the dog-sleigh – but very good too when still going through the mountains of washing back home! cheers…
Oh, and here is a toast to the great Imbibe team who are now on line at! To your success!

A recipe for the humble swede


A nation who enjoys such a plain vegetable as the deservedly underrated swede
truly must have a sense of humour! At least that was my view, coming from a country where no-one has had the incongruous fantasy to grace their table with”rutabaga” since the war ended! But here, swede, or “nips” as the scots call it affectionately, is served as a distinguished companion to the prestigious Haggis. This national dish is presented during Burns night on every 25th of January or at any other time the scots designate as Burns celebration night…

We happen to love Haggis in this household and I have found a quick way to deal with swede without loosing a finger. Because that is the other point about swede : it is hard and usually big enough to look quite scary when approached with even your biggest knife! So I don’t even try. I peel it, then wrap it in foil and put in a hot oven for as long as it takes to get it soft. It is then easy to mash, add crème fraîche and cumin, salt and pepper and serve  along the “tatties, as “nips and tatties” for the spicy and irresistible Haggis. I always offer a small glass of peaty whisky along, to be poured on each serving. Sally my dear Yorkshire neighbour taught me this and it is an absolute “must” now!

Quick Bitter Orange Marmalade



There is only a couple of weeks in the year when the bitter Seville oranges arrive from their native orchards onto the stalls of London. And this is round about now!
If you are lucky enough or perseverant enough to catch a few, here is a quick marmalade recipe to keep their uplifting fragrance and happy bite into jars so one can enjoy them long after their short season has passed!

Ingredients list:

  • 8 to 10 Seville oranges
  •  2 British cooking apples (Bramley)
  • Brown sugar or jam sugar 1kg
  • Water 500ml to cook the apples
  • 4 sweet or blood oranges
  • 2 un-waxed lemons
  • Cheese-cloth

The day before, grate the sweet oranges and the lemon. Squeeze their juice and keep the skin of the lemon to shred finely, removing the pith. Keep also one whole sweet orange to slice then cut each slice into quarters. Squeeze the juice of all the oranges. You should be left with about 800 ml of juice. Pour the juice and sugar together  with the shredded orange and lemon in a large bowl and reserve in the fridge until the next day. Keep all the pulp and left-over skins from juicing, cut them up and put into a bag of cheese-cloth tied with a string so you can pull it out later.

The following day, sterilise 5 or 6 jars by putting them in the dishwasher or by rinsing them under boiling water.

Pour the juice and sugar mix into a jam pan and boil to a slow roll until the skins are soft (1/2 hour max.).
Boil the peeled apples, then push them trough a sieve or colander. Put the mush  in and continue on slow heat for another 10 to 15 mn. Here, no need to strain: I like the mushy and pulpy marmalade they sell in Spain, which seems to still have all the vitamins and fibre of the real fruit…

Test the setting by dropping a little juice onto a cold plate: it should be runny but sticky. Do not overset if like me you like the soft home-made style. At this point the kitchen smells like an orange-grove baking in the midday sun… Pull the bag out and squeeze it with tongs over the pan. At this stage, you can pour a drop of whisky into the pan if you so choose.

Turn off the gas but quickly pot your nectar while it is as hot as lava- it saves sterilising afterwards!
Carefully, pour the jam into clean jars, wipe the neck with a wet cloth if necessary and screw the top tightly. Put each jar upside down on a kitchen towel so the air in it will self-sterilise by passing through the boiling liquid.

This makes a bitter and sharp marmalade, thanks to the Seville and the cooking apples. If you like it sweeter, simply add more sugar but I love the fresh and healthy taste of this low-sugar mix. There’ll be less guilt in the morning when spreading onto crisp toasts; in fact, you’ll feel glowing with pride – and considering the vitamin C, the calcium and the folate (Vit. B) you’ll be ingesting, you’ll soon glow with health too.

Now for the last reason – should you still need one- to start making this: Natural Vitamin C such as the one found in fruit, boosts the body’s absorption of iron by nearly 400%!