Monthly Archives: May 2010

Kamut flour bread

>I tried making bread this morning with a new interesting ingredient: Kamut flour, found in Waitrose – or some health shops. It is the ancestor of spring wheat (or durum wheat). As such, it is closer to ancient wheat and is supposed to be more digestible even by wheat intolerant people. The grains carry 30% more proteins than wheat and contains vitamins and minerals as well as gluten.

Kamut is a trademark meaning “Wheat” in ancient egyptian but the grain istself is called Korasan and originates probably in the fertile crescent. But the actual grains were brought back by a US serviceman from Egypt, in the years after the second world war.

Unlike common wheat it has never been subjected to genetic modification and is exactly the same grain found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaohs. Indeed, 36 of these were found in King Tut tomb for the first time in 1949.

Like Spelt, it is not linked to allergies, and I actually mixed one third of spelt with it because I was unsure how heavy the mix would be on its own.
In fact it produced a golden, chewy bread with a moist texture and a slightly nutty taste. No picture because I baked it for a trip on the boat down river and it got eaten entirely by the time we got back! Our friend Pascal thought it tasted a bit like brioche which is nice since it contained no butter or milk.

Ingredients list:
Kamut flour 400g
Wholemeal Spelt flour 200g
450 ml warm water
salt 1 tsp
Quick yeast 1 tbsp

Mix everything in a large bowl until you get a sticky ball, feeling elastic when you pat it with a wooden spoon. Cover with a plastic bag and leave in a warm kitchen corner for the night, or 1 hour min. In the morning, the ball has raised but only little with these type of flours. Take it onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding flour if it sticks to your fingers. Make a nice round loaf onto a lined baking tray and leave to raise again for 1/2 hour under a bag again while you get your oven to 220°C.

Bake for 20 to 25 min. Wrap into a cloth and slip into the picnic basket. We ate this with hummus and dips while going down-river with some nice friends! I chose to ignore the clouds and focus on the peace of the Bank Holiday.

I love watching London from the river: Everything looks so different and so quiet… One can hardly imagine how bustling and noisy the river Thames was only a century ago when ships were so crucial to trade and London was a port as well as a commercial hub.

A bit more information on the Kamut trademark:

The following specifications are laid out by Kamut International Ltd.
KAMUT® brand wheat must:
1. Be the ancient khorasan variety of wheat
2. Be grown only as a certified organic grain
3. Have a protein range of 12 – 18%
4. Be 99% free of contaminating varieties of modern wheat
5. Be 98% free of all signs of disease
6. Contain between 400 and 1000 ppb of selenium
7. Not be used in products in which the name is deceptive or misleading as to the content percentage
8. Not be mixed with modern wheat in pasta

The magic of pot-au-feu


What could be more appetising than a plateful of freshly picked spring vegetables? My picking from the fruit market looked like a still-life in the beautiful soft sunlight and so I decided to make a real, a true, a mouth-watering Pot-au-feu!  Pot-au-feu is usually a winter’s dish but I enjoy it even better with young and tender spring carrots and new turnips whiter than milk teeth.

The lady next to me at the butchers where I was ordering my cuts, started giggling with glee and announced she was inviting herself for dinner! “A pot-au-feu! What a splendid idea : I haven’t eaten one for years!” she breathed with a glint in her eyes… This is only food, but some dishes seem to summon magic and comforting distant memories like a medium summons spirits.

Advised by the butcher’s daughter, I chose some slightly fatty cuts in the chuck and brisket so the slow cooking would release the fat without toughening up the fibres too much. I added a nice thick piece of bacon (not smoked) and of course plenty of marrow bones. These will cook at the same time as the rest and flavour the stew while adding a bit of roundness to the juice. I could also have chosen a thick, meaty sausage to go with it but the weather felt too warm for this. This serves four comfortably:

Ingredients list:
Diced beef (in chuck and brisket) 800g
Bacon slice 150g
1 oxtail
Several marrow bone chunks
Bouquet garni (:parsley, thyme, laurel and sage tied in a bunch)
Carrots 5 young ones, left whole
Leeks, small and end trimmed to resemble a whisk, 2
1 large onion into which 5 whole cloves have been nailed
Turnips, 4 small ones, cleaned not peeled
Garlic, 3 whole cloves
1 handful of tinned chickpeas
Cracked pepper
Sea salt in crystals
Celeri, 1 stem

Clean and cut all of the vegetables, leaving them as whole as possible. Prepare the onion with the cloves and put it in a large cooking pot. Rub the marrow bones ends with the salt. Put the meat in the pot and season with pepper. Add the bouquet garni and the garlic. Cover with cold water and put on the hob. Let it get to a rolling boil then turn to simmer and leave for 2 hours minimum. Remove the foam with a sieve from time to time. The beauty of this dish is in the meddling of flavours during a slow and gentle cooking process that respects the integrity and the nutrients of each ingredient.

To serve, you need to present the meat and vegetable strained out of the “bouillon” in a large serving dish and pour the bouillon in individual bowls. Present it with thick slices of wholemeal bread, mustard, pickled onions and gerkins. You need to spread the marrow bones onto the bread, season with coarse salt and eat with the bouillon then enjoy the meat and vegetables  with their condiments.
Serve a full bodied Burgundy with it? Or any suggestions?

Pot-au-feu is the most archaic way of cooking, meaning literally: “pot on the fire”. It is the sort of dish the very first inhabitants of this planet might have devised as soon as fire was conquered. Consequently, most modern nutritionists would agree that with its slow, constant cooking temperature and its balanced mix of ingredients, it is a very healthy meal indeed and so simple it deserves to be put back onto our modern tables!

“The apotheosis of the one dish meal, writes Alain Ducasse in his “Dictionnaire amoureux de la cuisine”, pot-au-feu is no high cuisine: no sophisticated know-how is required (..); just blending in harmony, pot-luck style, quite literally”. Perfect.

Dreams around a cream-tea

>Yesterday afternoon, I set up a pretty table in the garden shade under the canvas sails we put up in the summer and served our family’s favourite meal at 4: A proper Devon cream tea. The sort of food that makes you grateful (for once) to live in a country that is still able to produce the kind of thick golden clotted cream  you long for at tea-time with a hot spelt and buttermilk scone and some light-infused strawberry jam.

But scones don’t always have to be sweet. They can be savoury and complement perfectly a round and rich champagne with a brioche hint or a lemony dry white. Last week at a tasting party, I served my usual scone recipe but put in the mix a sprinkle of Herbes de provence and some cracked pepper plus a chunk of grated mature cheddar. When the scones were baked, I sliced them in two and put a dollop of mascarpone inside. The two cheeses combine for a creamy, rustic taste and nobody can resist this duet! That was the only time I chose to be disloyal to English clotted cream with an italian contender. It was worth it.

The five minutes’ dinner


I was in Sark in the Channel Islands recently and enjoyed the wonderful fish and seafood so abundant there. It reminded me that fish really is the ultimate “fast food”: steam it, bake it or grill it and you are lucky if you have time to set the table during the process!

I always have two kinds of fish in the fridge: smoked salmon and haddock in pepper. But when I can I get fresh salmon or cod. Maybe a few prawns too. That’s all you need for a speedy dinner! And you feel good for eating all these Omegas and giving good fat to your skin and brain…

This is one of my staple recipes for a quick and healthy meal before a good film on DVD or after a busy day out:

Salmon in Filo pastry

Ingredients list:
One skinless fresh fillet of salmon per person
A few sheets of filo or greek thin pastry
Philadelphia or cream cheese
chopped cress or dill
cracked pepper

Put your fillet in the center of the filo sheet. Spread a good spoonful of Philadelphia, season with pepper and add some cress or dill, freshly chopped on top. Wrap you pastry around the fillet and press the corner with a wet fingers to seal it nicely so the steam will remain inside the parcel and give a very moist and flavoursome result.

Put on an oiled tray in the oven for about 10 min  or long enough to brown the pastry. Serve with some lemon quarters and a green salad.

Strawberry jam


Now that local and delicious varieties of strawberries are available in the fruit markets, it is time to make that first batch of jam! I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous and anxious yesterday and so I pulled out my jam wares and started making a very quick but very satisfying version of my annual strawberry jam. Within half-hour I had 8 lovely jars full, I was feeling more contented and the house smelt like a ladies tea-room! Phew!

Jam is the simplest thing: take two ingredients (sugar and fruit) and boil it until set! But the essential is to have the right pots and bits. You absolutely need one large stainless steel jam pan, a jam thermometer, a long ladle for pouring the jam in the jars, a steel funnel with a large opening and of course some clean jars with lids.

Ingredients list:
1 kilo of strawberries
1 kilo of crystallised sugar
Juice of one lemon (plus zest)

Do not wash the fruit if you can help it! Just take the stalks off with a sharp knife and put them in the pot with the sugar and lemon. I added nice stringy zest to enhance the lemony note and look more interesting in the jar. You can experiment with vanilla pods or pink peppercorns or chopped fresh mint – all delicious and adding a pretty variation to the classic strawberry jam. Add them just before the end. Leave the fruit whole: mine looked like beautiful scarlet jewels in a thick syrup. If the strawberries let too much juice out, just cook it longer. You want runny and not overcooked, over-set jam.

Bring to a boil, dip you thermometer in and when the temperature has gone up to “jam point” (105° C.), turn the heat down and let it simmer 20 min while you sterilise your pots in the dishwasher or in a simple steamer for 10 min. The thermometer is essential because without it jam making is a bit of a frustrating hit and miss business. Test that the jam is set by dropping a few droplets onto a cold saucer: it should be runny and slightly gloopy and should wrinkle when you run your finger through it for the ultimate test – taste is simply magic!

Now use your long ladle to scoop out the boiling jam straight into each clean jar. Be careful not to burn yourself and have plenty of kitchen towels around to hold the jar! Using a jam funnel like the one in the picture makes it easier. Screw the top on the jar and turn it upside down. This way the boiling liquid sterilises the air left in the jar by letting it pass through and no further sterilising is required.

Then comes the hardest bit: you should leave it about 3 months before opening them so the flavours have time to mingle and blossom… A bit like laying down a good vintage. In any case, the jars unopened can last a few years easily and make lovely presents to friends. I DO LOVE being given homemade treats! And I love giving them away… Sounds corny but giving food as present is a lot like giving a bit of TLC and affection.