Monthly Archives: May 2013


Phyllida’s shortbread

Phyllida's shortbread

Today I give you another version of the iconic shortbread. My favourite biscuit. The ingredients are the same as in my original post but this makes a single shortbread rather than a batch of it and I quite like the quaint wheel design so here it goes!

Ingredients list:
Flour 100g
Caster sugar 50g
Fine semolina (or rice flour) 50g
Butter 100g
scraped vanilla pod

Mix it all up until you get a ball. Lay it on oven-paper and shape it and mark it as you like!

In the oven at 170 for about 20 minutes- take it out before it colours!

With thanks to Phyllida and Eleonor for the many batches they have done for us… It tastes strangely better when I don’t have to make it ūüôā

Almond, lemon, ricotta and polenta cake

If summer is not coming to us, we will conjure it up in our plates! We will force it into our dishes and how best to do that than to use the enchanted flavours of Sicilian lemons, unadulterated ground almond and exotic polenta in order to create a “spirit of summer” cake? Seasonal and gluten-free.

Baking is soulful and a proper pick-me-up when all else is a disappointment including the longing for sunshine. This cake will fill your kitchen with the scents of a lemon grove and the lingering taste of sunnier places… You can serve it as pudding or eat it for breakfast as they do in Sicily, or better even : have it with a cup of tea outdoors! Any CHANCE of a picnic this week-end?!

Ingredients list:

  • Butter, 50g
  • Sugar, 280g
  • Eggs, 6
  • Fine polenta, 150g
  • Ground almond, 200g
  • Baking powder, 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Honey, 2 Tbsp
  • Zest of 5 lemons and juice of one
  • Ricotta, 300g
All the scents of summer

All the scents of summer

IMG_3708Pre-heat the oven to 160.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy and add the eggs one at a time.

Zest each lemon carefully – better to choose organic and unwaxed lemons if you can. Juice one of them and keep the others for a Granita de limone.

Fold all the remaining ingredients and pour into a lined and buttered cake pan.

If you have some lemon extract, you can add a few drops for a more intense lemon taste. Bake for just over an hour at 160¬†¬į. It is ready when the middle is still ever so slightly wobbly. The result is a dense and intense cake with a silky and melting texture. Irresistibly lemony…

Serve cold with yogurt and on its own.

This quantity will fill a dish 23 cm in diameter. The recipe is inspired by an australian site: With thanks!

Coquetas de ma grand-m√®re – A family heritage

This recipe has a long story: It has been in the family’s luggage for over one and a half century…¬†It most certainly originated in the small Spanish village of Altea, crossed the water to Oran in Algeria at the end of the 19th century, hopped to Casablanca for my grand-mother’s bridal journey, recrossed the Med back to the south of France in the 70s and finally came with me over the channel, as I now make it in London. This is a gem and I feel very altruistic giving it to the world! But then secrets in the kitchen are best shared with other cooks! That is how the best recipes live on…

It is really a small coca or empanada but stuffed with a “frita” consisting of fried sweet peppers, fried tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. It is made as a starter or as an nibble to enjoy over a glass of dry sherry.

Our picnic in Richmond park - dainty treats...

Our picnic in Richmond park – dainty treats…

IMG_9155Ingredients for the “frita”:

  • ¬†Sweet red and green peppers, 2/3
  • Big tomatoes, 2/3
  • Garlic cloves, 2
  • anchovy fillets

Plunge the tomatoes into a bol of boiling water then remove them and peel them with a sharp knife. The blistered skin will come off easily.

Core and cut them up and squeeze some of the seeds out but do not worry if there are some left.

Clean the peppers and put them under the grill to blacken the skin. Once cooled, most of the skin will peel easily.

Fry the cubed tomatoes and the chopped garlic.  Add strips of peppers. Cook until soft and mushy. Then add some bits of anchovy into the cooled mix. This means no extra salt is needed!

Add a little black pepper. Reserve in the fridge until you need it. This filling can be done ahead of time and even frozen if necessary.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • Fine flour, 250g
  • Boiling water, 500ml
  • Salt, pinch
  • Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
  • Sugar, 2 tsp

The trick for this dough is to throw the whole lot of the measured flour into the salted and boiling water in ONE go!  Add the sugar and olive oil. Turn speedily with a wooden spoon and turn the heat off when the dough comes away from the sides of the pan into a glossy ball. Let it to cool aside. Again, this dough can be made the day before or kept in the fridge for a few days. This amount will make a good baker dozen of coquetas.

When you are ready to assemble, spread the dough on a cool clean surface with a floured rolling pin. Keep it as thin as you can but not to breaking point. Keep it floured so it does not stick to the surface or the pin.

Cut up circles with a large scone cutter or a sharp knife around a small saucer. Place a small amount of filling in the middle and join the two sides like a Cornish pasty, pressing the edges down with a fork.

Prepare a thick bottom frying pan with a good glass of oil in it. When the oil sizzles around a pea of dough, lower each coquetas and fry until both sides are nice and brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm or at room temperature with the aforementioned glass of sherry! Some black olives are good with it too.

When I was a child, we had this in the sun filled lounge at the aperitif, just before lunch during the week ends and sometime mid week. In France, in many families, you will also get an aperitif before lunch, not just before dinner. As we grew up, we were even allowed the odd sip of wine with our coquets so for us this is was a festive and grown-up treat. Children tend not to like the bitter taste of green pepper but in coquetas it was enhanced by the saltiness of the anchovies and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The pastry must be light and puffed up with a chewiness that I am still very fond of. This is not a quick family recipe but it has its place here despite that because of its archive quality ! Be aware that it will take the best part of a day to achieve…¬†This is love’s labour…

Some recipes are heritage. I confess that I am excessively thrilled to be now making coquetas at home ¬†and teaching my children how to do them. And even though they not as good as Manille’s, they are pretty close!

Quick yogurt in oven or steamer

This is more of a tip, less than a recipe.
I have been making velvety yogurt in my oven since last year and I have just purchased a brilliant Magimix electric steamer. It obviously does a hell of a lot more, but what this steamer does to perfection is yogurt because it has a 40 degrees position. But oven or steamer, the recipe is the same and works every time:

Take one litre of the best, creamiest organic milk possible, one organic full fat yogurt pot (small Yeo Valley will do) and the same pot full of skimmed powder milk. Mix it all and whisk until smooth. Pour into a jug and then fill 8 to 10 yogurt pots or 6 jam pots. Put into your oven at less than or about 50 degrees or use an electric steamer such as mine. Leave for 10 hours and wake up to the creamiest, most delicious yogurt! Promise!

I do not like sugar in my yogurts but I do put a spoonful of orange blossom water. You can innovate with any other fragrance but this works best for us.
The trick is to use very good, full fat milk and use it at room temperature – I do not bother with heating it up anymore – unless you are lucky enough to use raw milk.

Into clean jars

Into clean jars

Into the steamer for 10 hours at 40 degrees

Into the steamer for 10 hours at 40 degrees

I dedicate this to Tina who said she loved my yogurts on saturday! She¬†won’t be so impressed now she knows it is ridiculously easy to do…IMG_9159

Fougasse d’A√ģgues Mortes

For the Bank holiday, I had set myself a couple of goals: To try and get the whole family out (including darkness-loving teenagers) for the first picnic of the year and to bring to this picnic some copious delights. Here was the menu. It consisted in our beloved “fougasse d’Aigues Mortes”, the iconic Coquetas from my grand-mother’s recipe trove and my favourite ever sandwich, namely the Pan Bagna… All of those recipes will follow soon on this blog – aren’t we spoilt!!!

Indeed the picnic menu was a tall order but after all I had three days to achieve it. And fret over the weather…


The “fougasse” is a type of flat brioche served in the south of France as a savoury version or -more rarely- as a sweet one. A fougasse with bacon bits or olives is a lovely thing to share before dinner but this sweetmeat one is unique to the small walled town of Aigues Mortes in the south of France. It is light and moist, sweet and fragranced, drenched in orange blossom fragrance and soft butter. It would make a lovely breakfast for a bank holiday.

I made the dough yesterday evening and it is pillowy and plump, ready for the oven this morning.

Ingredients list:

  • Fine flour, 250 g
  • Sugar, 100g
  • Butter 150g
  • 3 eggs
  • Quick yeast, 1 tsp
  • Milk, 2 Tbsp
  • Orange blossom water, 100ml
  • zest of one lemon and one orange

Warm a little milk to blood temperature and mix the quick yeast in that liquid.

Cream 100g of butter with the sugar.

Add the flour to this mix, then the yeast, then the egg. Work to a smooth and elastic dough. Beat with a wooden spoon to get it plump and aerated. Add 2 big spoonfuls of orange blossom.

Leave to rest for a night in the bowl or at least 1 and 1/2 hour.

You want a glossy and sticky dough with lots of tiny bubbles inside it. It will about double its size.

Knead it back with a wooden spoon again and lay into a lined baking tray. The amount above will be enough for a medium size tray.

Shave bits off the remaining 50g of butter and intersperse  on the dough. Shake some sugar on top. Pour a good amount of orange blossom (2 Tbsp) and put the tray into the oven.

Bake 25 min at 180¬į on the middle rack of the oven- this detail is important because the delicate brioche will take too much colour if left on the bottom rack.

It will raise  a little but must not take too much colour on the top either.

When ready, mix some more sugar with the rest of the orange blossom to make a thick syrup and spread on the hot dough. Leave to cool and serve when the syrup has dried up into a thin crust.

Aigues Mortes is a small walled town where A. and I celebrated our wedding some years back… We love going back time and time again ¬†for those memories of course but also for the gorgeous ice creams you eat in massive waffle cornets near medieval gates and for a certain Patisserie outside the walls that bakes the very best “Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes”, ¬†steeped in crushed sugar and orange blossom syrup.

Aigues Mortes roman church is were we got married: A beautiful simple church that saw Saint Louis, king of France, set off for the seventh crusade. THe town takes its name from the marsh lands that surrounds it towards the sea, but at the time it was close enough to the water to launch a flotilla towards Egypt!

We shared this for breakfast, before heading off the Richmond Park with a picnic rug and a filled hamper! Thank God for sunshine…

Ready to share!

Ready to share!

PS:My favourite fougasse comes from the Olmeda patisserie, in rue Emile Jamais, juste outside the walled town. ¬†My version was close …