Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tapas from the sea

Belle ile en mer

A long week end in Belle Ile, off the coast of Brittany, provided some inspiration for a kind of sea-born tapas.

Chez Loulou, on the tiny island of Houat, we were served a trio of delicious fish pastes with small but perfectly formed blinis. It was a windy and invigorating day on the Catamaran and this lunch solace in Houat remains a cherished moment!

Ingredients for the blinis (this is my old own trusted recipe):

  • Buckwheat flour 100g
  • Wholemeal flour 100g
  • sea salt to taste
  • Baking powder or bicarbonate of soda 1tsp
  • Olive oil 1 Tbsp
  • Eggs 2
  • Water 300ml

Mix the flours, salt and baking powder together with a large drop of olive oil.

Blend in the whole eggs, bit by bit and add enough water to make a thin runny batter.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan or use a cast iron plate if you have one. I love mine, found in a market in the Cevennes last year. It is light and super useful.

Drop the batter in ladle-ful and turn each blinis once, as soon as they come off the pan.

The best pancakes are to be tasted in Brittany and so blinis seemed a natural guest on the menu. We followed this with more savoury pancakes and then a wonderful crepe stuffed with melting chocolate and Salidou, this divine toffee with sea salt that is a Breton delicacy…

Serve with a choice of 3 fish pastes as below.

  1. Ingredients for the Mackerel and caper paste:
    • Smoked mackerel
    • capers
    • lemon juice
    • parsley and dill
    • Little cream cheese or mascarpone
    • Horseradish cream, a little (or “raifort”)
  2. Ingredients for the Tuna and tomatoes paste:
    • Fresh or tinned tuna
    • olive oil
    • passata or crushed tomatoes
    • salt and pepper
    • Sweet paprika
    • Dash of vinegar
  3. Ingredients for the Taramosalata:

I will not insult your sense of taste by giving out any measurements on these ones! The best results are very much how you will like it. There is no right and wrong when mixing dips and it is all up to taste. Hope your enjoy those as much as we did, by the sea or in town- they taste of holiday and you certainly can’t beat that …

A blossoming entrance door on Houat

Curried eggs and bacon muffin

Eggs are the most perfect food, packaged in the most perfect shape. 

This time-saving recipe uses a pinch of cumin or curry and that simple addition makes those eggs a delight fit for a Maharaja!

Curried eggs on muffins

Ingredients list:

  • eggs
  • butter
  • curry or cumin 1 pinch
  • Muffin
  • Optional: bacon slices
Just scramble some good, fresh farm eggs into a pan with a dollop of butter. Turn slowly on moderate heat. Mix a pinch of curry powder or cumin.
Fry the bacon beforehand and serve the egg and bacon over a nice muffin! Easy and delicious. Menus don’t have to be taxing – especially when returning from holidays, or packing for them!
Try rolling freshly steamed asparagus into a slice of smoked salmon and you’ve got a plateful of assorted flavours in no time at all. Now, time to edit those holiday snaps…

Cheese on toast à la Harold Pinter

This brilliant title is not mine! But belongs to a delightful recipe book by Mark Crick :  “Kafka’s Soup”,

The author is a photographer and writer who came to write a recipe book because he loved cooking but never read a recipe up to the end. He thought he would though if this recipe happened to be written by some of his favourite writers! So he has pastiched their style and themes in the most hilarious and erudite recipe book that could ever grace your kitchen shelves. I was lucky to be invited to a reading during which he proved so funny, personable and genuine that I urge anybody who loves style and literature games to rush and buy his books!

I made this easy and tasty recipe for the kids lunch and they absolutely swear by it now… Me, I love his tongue in cheek take on two British classics – Hence the unusually long post.

cooking the books

Ingredients list:

  • 1 loaf of ciabatta
  • 1 aubergine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pesto
  • 200g mozzarella
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
(recipe by Mark Crick in the style of Pinter)
A kitchen, cluttered. A fluorescent tube is flickering, trying to light. Beneath a window is a sink, piled with dirty dishes. The bin is overflowing with rubbish; nearby, empty bottles are standing. There is a small kitchen table; newspapers and unopened letters
obscure the surface. At the table are two chairs. There is the sound of a key in a door, muffled voices. The door bangs shut; instantly HURLEY, a young man dressed in a leather jacket, and CLACK, an older man, tramp-like in appearance, enter stage left.

HURLEY. Come in, make yourself at home.
(CLACK enters and looks around)
Bloody light. I’ve been meaning to get a new tube.
(HURLEY reaches up and taps the light with his finger until
it stops flickering.) I’ll make you something to eat.
CLACK. I haven’t eaten all day. I can’t remember the last time I had a proper
meal. I mean a proper sit-down meal, something hot.
HURLEY. (Looking in the fridge) Do you want to use the
phone? Call your daughter?
CLACK. What, at this time? I’ll call her tomorrow. She won’t
want to come up here tonight, she starts early in the
HURLEY. I can’t offer you much. I haven’t done a proper
shop for ages. How about cheese on toast?
CLACK. What sort of cheese?
HURLEY. Mozzarella.
CLACK. Mozza what?
HURLEY. Mozzarella. It’s Italian.
CLACK. Not for me. I’ll have a slice of toast though.
HURLEY. I must wash this grill sometime.
(He is holding a grill pan covered with dried cooked cheese.
He cuts a ciabatta in half, lengthways. Similarly, he finely
slices an aubergine and puts the pieces into a frying pan
where some oil is heating.)
CLACK. Not a bad little place you got here. All yours is it?
This must be worth a few bob. How long you been here?
HURLEY. I don’t know . . . about three years.
CLACK. Made a few bob on it, have you?
(HURLEY puts the ciabatta under the grill to warm)
That’s a big slice of toast.
HURLEY. It’s ciabatta.
CLACK. Cia what?
HURLEY. Ciabatta. It’s Italian bread.
CLACK. You Italian are you?
HURLEY. Everybody eats it these days: ciabatta, focaccia,
schiacciata, panini.
CLACK. Can’t you just put me a couple of slices in the
HURLEY. Toaster’s broken.
I’d like to have a little Italian eatery one day. Nothing
fancy, mind. Simple snacks: panini on ciabatta, focaccia,
bruschetta; pasta lunches, spaghetti, penne, rigatoni; the
basic sauces, pesto, Bolognese, arrabiata. Classic mains:
carpaccio of tuna drizzled with truffle oil, pan-fried fillet
of beef on a bed of wilted spinach in its own jus. You
want a cup of tea with it?
CLACK. Now you’re talking. A nice cup of tea.
HURLEY. You ever been to Italy? I knew a bloke there once,
bit like you. That was years ago. He’s probably dead
by now.
(He removes the aubergine from the pan, the flesh has
soaked up the oil and is a golden colour with dark stripes left
by the ridges of the frying pan. The ciabatta has now
warmed and he spreads a thin layer of pesto onto the cut
side). Where’s your daughter live then?
CLACK. My what?
HURLEY. Your daughter. The one who was meant to pick
you up at the station.
CLACK. Oh, her.
She lives in Catford.
HURLEY. Catford? I used to go to the dogs there. I remember
one night I was doing well, nearly all winners I’d picked,
till I put the lot on the last race. I did a forecast, two and
four. I don’t know why, I nearly always did two and four
about. But that night I didn’t. Only came in four and
two. I lost the lot. You a gambler?
CLACK. What, and throw my money away like that? Not me.
(Pause as he looks down at his lap)
You haven’t got a safety pin have you?
(HURLEY lays the slices of aubergine on top of the ciabatta
and pesto and begins to slice the mozzarella.)
HURLEY. You can give her a call in the morning. I’ll make
you a bed up.
CLACK. She works in the morning. I told you.
HURLEY. You like olive oil?
(He lays the mozzarella over the aubergine, drizzles olive oil
on top, and finally adds a sprinkle of chopped oregano,
before placing the ciabatta under a hot grill.)
CLACK. I don’t want none of that foreign muck.
HURLEY. Olive oil? It’s good for you.
CLACK. It’s for cleaning your ears out, ain’t it?
HURLEY. (Drops a tea bag into the overflowing bin) Here you
are, a cup of tea for you.
CLACK. (Gives a sigh of contentment) You can’t beat a nice cup
of tea.
(He sips at the tea and pulls a face)
You got any sugar?
HURLEY. Over there, on the table. I don’t use it much.
(The sugar has hardened. CLACK chips at it with a
teaspoon until he has sweetened his tea enough. He checks it
occasionally throughout the process. The sound of sizzling
comes from the grill. HURLEY waits until the mozzarella
has turned brown and golden in places.)
HURLEY. Here you are. It’s ready.
(HURLEY cuts the two lengths of ciabatta into pieces.)
You’ll try some, won’t you?
CLACK. Not for me. That’s no good to a man like me.
(HURLEY puts the plate of ciabatta onto the table.)
Don’t look bad though, I’ll give that to you. It’s . . .
Well presented. That’s what it is, well presented.
HURLEY. I would have done a salad garnish, or a few fresh
basil leaves if I’d had them.
CLACK. Don’t look bad at all.
I’ll just have a taste.
(He takes a piece and bites into it. The mozzarella sticks to
his beard in long threads. His face brightens in surprise.)
CLACK. That ain’t bad, that ain’t. I reckon you might make
a go of that caff yet.
He reaches for a second piece. HURLEY is already eating.
The two men sit in silence, occasionally sipping at their tea.
The fluorescent tube begins to flicker again, but this time
HURLEY ignores it. Lights slowly fade.

cheese on ciabatta

Reading note: Each recipe is a small, contained, perfect work of humour and lightness, erudition and emotion.
M. Crick endorses the voice of others with a faithfulness and brilliance that reminds me that painters of all times have always learnt by copying masters. His pastiches are not only clever “exercises of style” but original and often illuminating personal work. They’ll be by my bedside for a while!

Nostalgia pudding: clafoutis aux cerises noires et chocolat

This season, I am rediscovering “clafoutis”! Now that might mean nothing to you but to me this word is brim-full of soft fruit, delicate flavours and comforting memories. 

Clafoutis is a baked fruit pudding with a milk and egg base. The combinations are limitless but my current favourites are:
Cherries and chocolate – dark and seductive!
Rhubarb with raspberry – love the tartness…

Ingredients list for the Black Cherry and Chocolate clafoutis:
  • Black cherries 500g
  • 3 eggs
  • Rice flour 50g
  • Flour (gluten free mix is fine here) 50g
  • Milk 100ml
  • Single cream 100 ml
  • Sugar 100g
  • Vanilla essence ½ capful
  • Optional Bitter almond oil  ½ capful
  • Grated dark chocolate for topping
  • Butter for the dish

Wash the fruit. Do not take the stones out of the cherries or they will bleed in the batter and I like a cream coloured base. It looks prettier.

Mix the flours and sugar.

Beat the three eggs into the milk and cream.
Add to the flour and beat until blended.
Butter your gratin or earthenware dish.
Lay the fruit and cover with the batter.
Bake for 25 to 30 min max in a warm oven- 180°. When it comes out, grated a little very dark chocolate on top.

The dough must be still soft and creamy so don’t over-bake or you will end up with an unfortunate, heavy looking dish. To add to the creaminess, you want to serve this pudding warm with a little jug of cold cream.

fruity jumble

Second flavour: For the rhubarb variation, just chop up a couple of stalks, add some sugar in a pan and let it go soft for a few minutes on low heat. Then lay the rhubarb, pour the batter in and decorate with a few scattered raspberries before baking.

The traditional recipes only call for milk but do try it with cream – it is so much more moorish and decadently lushful! Certainly worth a revival.

A nice way to get in a jam!

There is nothing I liked more as a child than bread and jam. Indeed, I loved eating jam with a spoon when I got home after school and there was always plenty of the homemade kind in every season. 

Here are a few ideas for summer but the combinations are endless:

Storing for winter

  1. Strawberry and fresh mint
  2. Raspberry and vanilla
  3. Cherry and redcurrant
  4. Gooseberry and elderflower
Bejewelled Cherry Jam with Redcurrant Pearls
Ingredients list for the cherry jam:
  • Black cherries 1 kg
  • Granulated sugar 500g
  • Frozen redcurrants, 1/2 punnet
  • Juice of one lemon

Put the stoned cherries and the sugar in a large pan.

Bring to a rolling boil (105°on the jam thermometer) and and keep it there for 5 minutes. Turn off.

Add the redcurrants and bring back to a boil for another 5 minutes.

Check the setting by running a wooden spoon up along the side of the pan.

Use a ladle to put into clean, sterilised jars and put aside. Jam is best eaten a few weeks after it’s been made.

J’ai trempé mon doigt dans la confiture


Ca sentait les abeilles

Ca sentait les groseilles

Ca sentait le soleil:

J’ai trempé mon doigt dans la confiture

Puis je l’ai suçé


Mais tellement suçé

Que je l’ai avalé!

René de Obaldia – a favourite poet of mine…