Monthly Archives: July 2010

Lemon madelaines


Recipe from Herve This
This is such an iconic French cake that it received a place of choice in Marcel Proust famous novel “A la recherche du temps perdu”: the narrator dips his madelaine into a cup of tea and as he bites in it he is suddenly transported in his past childhood and the souvenirs of his grand-mother. Tastes and fragrances do have this uncanny ability to render alive past memories and bring you back all of a sudden to a particular day or a particular mood…  Lets give them to our children so one day they might be able to use the sensations experienced in works of the imagination and relive happy times through a simple smell!

Ideally, you need a Flexipan style tray for madelaines but other small shapes trays may work too.

Ingredients list:
Butter 60g
Flour 125g
Sugar 125g
Orange blossom water 1 tbsp
3 eggs
Lemon zest plus juice

Melt the butter in a pan, pour into a bowl and add to it the flour, sugar, orange blossom and a spoonful of honey. Beat well with a wooden spoon then add the yolks, lemon juice and last beat the egg whites to peaks and add them in carefully.

Bake in a 12 pan tray at medium heat (180°) for 15 minutes max.

Those madelaines are light and deliciously fragranced, but never too buttery. Their citrus  hint goes perfectly with a cup of earl grey tea…

>Visit of Poilâne Bakery in Elizabeth Street


The children are now off school and I ring the Poilâne bakery in Elizabeth Street, between Sloane Square and Victoria tube stations, for a guided tour of the premises. On the said day, we turn up in this lovely shopping street and get down to the basement where resides the enormous bread oven: all 5 metres of furnace beyond the studded metal doors!

Two lovely French bakers explain to us in Moliere’s tongue why Poilâne bread is so unique. All the flour comes from France where it is milled using the old mill-stone technique and still contains wheatgerm and bran so the final dough is very tasty and healthy. The bread is always started from the “chef”, a little quantity of dough reserved from the last batch: no other raising agent. The dough is mixed in a gigantic trough with huge kneading hooks that can work up to 500 kg of flour. All of us could easily fit around a tea-tray in there! But the most impressive is the wood-burning oven, that is left on all day and night, 6 and a half days a week. It is only turned off on Saturday afternoon because no bread will be made for the sunday.

 There are huge wooden spatulas hanging in rafters on the ceiling to put the breads in the furnace. It takes 6 hours for a batch, from start to shop. Alain talk us through the process and my children are mesmerised. Bread comes alive under the strong kneading hands of the younger of the two bakers while he shapes the raisin loaves and then lay them to rest in their pans. For the round bread, the dough is laid inside straw “banetons” to raise for 1 and a half hour. Then they are baked for a whole hour at 280°.
The oven has a special bucket for water so the bread takes on a lovely golden colour. I try to remember that next time I bake my own… The shifts are very long and the heat down there is quite oppressing but our bakers are passionate about what they do.

Once back in the shop, we taste their delicious cookies and go home with half a kilo of the sourdough bread. For dinner, I offer a Poilane tartine party and each of us spread long slices of bread with anything they like: tuna mayo, salad, ham, cheese, onion chutney etc…. Great day out and in!



I am afraid my last attempt at this was slightly bitter because I had BOILED the flowers which Camilla assures me you are not supposed to do! Second attempt and it is delicious, fragranced; just sharp and fresh. Thanks, Camilla! So here is the revised recipe for
Elderflower cordial

Ingredients list:
1 kg of sugar
1 litre of water
20 heads of fresh elderflowers
3 limes plus zest
2 teaspoons of citric acid

Pick the flowers, trying to avoid putting in too many of the small stems and reserve in a bowl. Boil the sugar in the water for a few minutes, making sure all the sugar is dissolved. Pour the boiling syrup over the flowers and stir.

Zest and slice the lemons or limes and put them into the bowl with syrup. Add the citric acid – available at most chemists. My local one stocked it, god bless her!

Leave to steep at least 48 hours covered in the kitchen. Later strain it first into a sieve then through a cheese cloth or fine sieve and bottle in clean glass bottles until ready to use.

This drink is sharp and refreshing and encapsulates for me all the pleasures of an English summer in the country – walks in the woods and wild encounters with Bambi included!

Asparagus risotto


This recipe comes courtesy of one of my favourite suppliers, Abel and Cole who deliver fresh boxes of vegetables to us through the winter months. Their book “Cooking outside the box” is full of great ideas to prepare interesting British produce such as Kale or swede, things that I had never cooked before!
But this is a recipe for now: the PYOs are bursting with asparagus ready to be picked…

Ingredients list:
Onion, 1
Olive oil
Risotto or round rice, 1mug
White wine, 1/2 mug
Chicken stock, 4 mugs
Large bunch of asparagus
Double cream, 2 tbsp
Grated parmesan
4 Strips of parma ham or Speck

The secret of a good risotto is simply that it must cook very slowly and with plenty of liquid.
Sauté the onion in a little olive oil then add the rice and slowly pour the wine: When it is all gone, you can start adding the stock but stirring all the time… Lower the heat if it is evaporating too fast.
Meanwhile, steam the asparagus spears for 3 or 4 min.

Add the cream when the rice is soft and still moist. Stir the chopped asparagus through, check it is moist enough and add some stock if not. Add the parmesan, pepper. Decorate with the ham and serve immediately.

Recipe from Abel and Cole

Cranberry and macadamia flapjacks

>Ingredients list:
150g butter
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp treacle
200g porridge oats
2 tbsp agave syrup
50g muscovado sugar
120g cranberries and macadamia mix

Melt the butter and oil in a medium pan.
Put all the dry ingredients together 
in a big bowl, then pour the melted butter and mix while adding the 
agave syrup and the treacle.
Spread into an oiled tray so that you get 
a depth of about 1 cm. Put in a hot oven at 180〫for about 20min. The edges 
must look brown and crispy before you take it out. Let it cool down 
then cut big squares with the tip of a knife. Enjoy with a cup of tea on a blanket by the river as I did last Monday with my boys… 

Nutrition notes:
Oats are very good at lowering your cholesterol . The agave syrup is a
health option because its low glycemic load means that your glucose
levels won’t shoot up too quickly, so no hunger pangs straight after
and more long term energy. To make this recipe healthier you can replace the fruit and nuts with pumpkin, sesame or linseeds. A good way to get the chicks to eat their seeds!