Bocals of Anchovies
I visited my supermarket recently to find to my delight a pile of fresh anchovies glistening in the ice. 5 euros a kilo I’ll have the lot I say. A proud possessor of 2.5 kilos of slippery silver jewels. A bit of team work with my youngest and a few handfuls of salt and a comfortable years worth of salty umani flavour rest in 5 bocal’s.
Details on how to salt Anchovies can be found in an earlier pst by clicking here. It’s simple and worth giving a go if you can the little fishies
I love anchovies and to have a comfortable years supply for a very modest 12 euros is very frugal. To celebrate my success I offer you a poem, originally posted at All that’s in between, you can find the blog here.
An ode to anchovies
Anchovy anchovy anchovy.
Salty, briny, anchovy.
Motivator of disgust.
Instigator of terror.
Light in my life.
King of my kitchen.
There you are frugal anchovies and a poem, life is good
The elderflower season is up on us, a little late this year as the weather has been rubbish in France and the UK but the grand bushes/trees in our garden planted as pushed in twigs a few years ago are in their perfumed glory.
I have posted about Elderflowers before so you you want to know more about this lovely little shrub check out my post here.
The cooking window for the flowers is quite short, the trees have to be in flower! Dry, preferably in sun to encourage the aroma and picked midday or early afternoon when they are the most perfumed.
A basket of Elderflowers
I used the flowers in a variety of ways to make;
- Elderflower Cordial
- Elderflower Vinegar
- Elderflower Sorbet
- Elderflower Pannacotta
All the recipes are simple in there execution hence the rather impressive list.
So in descending order
It’s been a few years since I made Elderflower Champagne as I have preferred to make this cordial. It’s far more versatile than champagne as it can be drunk diluted to taste, added to a Gin and Tonic, used to flavour desserts or simply drizzled over ice cream. I posted a link to the recipe an old post, but here it is in all it’s glory.
- 1.5 litres water
- 1 kilo of white sugar
- 25 Elderflower heads
- Juice and zest of 4 lemons
- 55 grams citric acid – Finding citric acid can be a little problematic, traditionally stocked at chemists but many don’t stock it now. Try home brew shops (cheapest), Lakelands or other specialist cook shops.
Snip the flowers off the stalks using a pair of scissors. Bring the water to the boil and add the sugar, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Take the water off the boil and add the flowers, lemon juice, lemon zest and citric acid. Leave to steep overnight then strain through boiled or ironed muslim into sterilised bottles. Label and store in a dark place.
The muslim is boiled or ironed to sterilise the cloth, to sterilise the bottles pop into a low oven for 15 minutes of put them through a dishwasher wash cycle.
The cordial keeps very well at least a year.
Elderflower vinegar is an embarrassingly simple recipe that helps you to transform a light salad dressing into a breath of summer, something very welcome in the winter. The vinegar can also be drunk as a cordial by diluting with water and adding sugar to taste.
To make cram a wide bottomed jar with as many elderflowers as possible (snipped from there stalks with scissors), add enough white wine or cider vinegar to cover (about 750ml – 1 litre) leave to steep in a dark place for 3 weeks. Filter through muslim or a clean tea towel bottle and use as required. Keeps for ages.
Another simple recipe that doesn’t require an ice cream making machine. Truth be told it is pretty sweet a small glass is very nice but you won’t be wanting a bowl!
- 750 grams sugar
- 1 litre water
- 15 heads of Elderflower
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons.
Boil the water and add the sugar, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Take the water of the boil and add the elderflowers (snipped of the stalks) the lemon juice and zest. Leave to steep over night in a non-reactive bowl or container.
The following day strain through muslim or a clean tea towel add the contents to an ice cream maker and follow the manufactures instructions, alternatively add the liquid to a freezer proof bowl freeze until crystals start to form, stir and repeat until the sorbet is set.
And finally……..Elderflower Pannacotta which is very nice indeed. TV chefs go on about this, getting the set, getting the wobble etc but truth be told Pannacotta is cream jelly. Don’t go mad on the gelatine and unlike the TV programmes give yourself more than a couple of hours between making it and eating it.
You can make this Pannacotta with your home made cordial but if available I prefer to use fresh flowers as I think the final result is more frag
Bottles of Cordial
Ingredients for 4 servings
- 3 sheets of gelatin
- 150 ml whole milk
- 300ml double cream
- 20 elderflowers
- 75g caster sugar
- A slug of gin
Soak the gelatin in warm water. Snip the flowers from the stalks and put into a pan with the milk and cream, bring gently to the boil and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze the water out of the softened gelatine and add to the pan with a good slug of gin, stir until the gelatine is dissolved.
Sieve the mixture through muslim or a clean tea towel into the a suitable large or individual moulds. Leave to cool then chill in a fridge until set (about 4 hours). That’s it, you can turn out the pannacotta onto a serving plate if you like, you’ll need to dip the mould into hot water or serve in glasses, teacups or whatever. It’s great served with summer fruits.
That’s it lots of ideas, the best thing about cooking with Elderflower is that it is great to do with kids, I gathered and made the pannacotta with Oscar my 6 year old nephew, we had a blast and when we finished Oscar took me to the pub for a cheeky half, Oscar had pop
Well it’s been a long time coming but Coursera has finally come up with a start date for their Science of Gastronomy course that was subject to a blog posting back in November last year (you can read the original post here).
The course is scheduled to start on 10th July running for 6 weeks, the estimated weekly commitment is 3/4 hours per week. A few readers have contacted me to say they had read the original post and have signed up. If you are thinking of taking this course let me know, perhaps we can form a study group!
Well I’m off to polish some test tubes or whatever, and begin preparations for a science powered blog at the end of the summer.
I now have my first pop-up restaurant under my belt and getting ready for the next. It’s on June 8th at the No84 Café and Eatery in Gravesend if you are interested.
I had a huge sense of achievement after the first. It was a sell-out. I managed to feed 32 people who all had a great night (with the help of my formidable team: front of house posse, Jim and Sarah, sous chef, Adam and Eileen and Ted for loads of help both pre and post and for being such enthusiastic diners on the night). Big thanks to all xx
The basic premise of the No84 Occasional Supper Club is that people eat good food, from local and trusted producers/suppliers. Diners eat communally -the tables are laid out in a large horseshoe – and each night features a different guest speaker.
On June 8th, the theme is ‘Wild about Kent’ and features local produce with elements of wild food. I am very excited that ‘Fergus the Forager’ (aka Fergus Brennan) has agreed to be our guest speaker. Check out his website.
But now the difficult bit, deciding on the menu and making it work. Anyone with any experience of cooking for a crowd will tell you that simply scaling up a recipe meant for 2 to serve 32 doesn’t necessarily work. I am also restricted by the café kitchen itself. I love the café, I love its ethos, I love the people who run it and work there but it is a café and not a restaurant. No fancy equipment, in fact quite the opposite – a large oven but only two small induction hobs and that’s about it. Saturday is also their busiest day so we can’t get in and cracking until at least 5pm, later even. So the menu has to take account of all of these factors.
I have decided on the ‘amuse bouche’ and turn back to Heston Blumenthal for inspiration. It will be basically crudités with a big but (as opposed to a big butt which was on last month’s menu!). I want to create sharing plates of a Kentish vegetable garden. Heston suggests oven drying black olives and then chopping them finely to create soil. I will then ‘plant’ a range of tiny seasonal vegetables in the soil ready to be picked and dipped. I had a great chat with a local farmer on Sunday. Once he had got his head round the idea he was dead up for it and we have agreed a range of tiny veg that he’ll have ready for me a couple of days beforehand.
For the starter I am using a local goat’s cheese and Kent beetroot as the basis of the dish. I had a practice on Sunday. See my efforts below.
The component parts are goats cheese mousse, beetroot and raspberry puree, beetroot crisps, balsamic jelly cubes, leaves with a walnut dressing. It wasn’t quite right, it needs tweaking. The balsamic jelly cubes will be too expensive to make and didn’t add enough to justify their inclusion. I’ll go for a balsamic reduction instead and drizzle over. I need to do another batch of crisps and keep them in an airtight tin to make sure they stay crisp for a few hours and I’d like the salad leaves to include a few wild ones. Dandelion leaves come to mind and perhaps a few wild flowers as a garnish.
I’m almost halfway there, second half to follow.
The Rhubarb season is upon us and I for one rejoice to eat the first fruit or vegetable of the season.
I love Rhubarb it takes me back to my childhood of pink Rhubarb pies and tart crumbles, yum. As a vegetable or a fruit and there is quite a debate on that topic, it’s been seriously out of fashion for a number of years, but has recently enjoyed a resurgence with trendy TV cooks reintroducing it to the nation’s palates. In fact Rhubarb can be hard to get hold of, when researching this post I found that Tesco supermarket were offering none for sale and Ocado the Waitrose’s online brand were offering Rhubarb at a whooping £7.50 a kilo no wonder they are keen to sell it!
I don’t think my Mum was paying the equivalent of £7.50 a kilo back in the day, the truth was that we had loads of rhubarb because as any rhubarb grower knows if you have a plant you have a glut, so any friends with a garden or an allotment would drop some off.
Rhubarb has a long history even it’s name is of note, Rhu refers to the river Rha the Roman name for the Volga right on the eastern edge of the Roman empire where wild Rhubarb grows on the banks. Barb refers to the barbarians on the edge of the empire, therefore ‘the plant of the barbarians’.
References to Rhubarb as a medicine go back thousands of years in Chinese history, where it was taken as a laxative amongst other uses. Rhubarb was imported along the silk road in the 14th century and was on par with silks and jewels. A Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo’s report of his embassy in 1403-05 to Timur in Samarkand: “The best of all merchandise coming to Samarkand was from China: especially silks, satins, musk, rubies, diamonds, pearls, and rhubarb…”
£50 worth of Rhubarb!
Rhubarb became popular in the 17th Century when sugar became affordable and consumption reached it’d peak between the wars. A relic of these times hangs on in the famous Yorkshire triangle of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley, all flat caps and whippets where forced rhubarb is harvested by candlelight in huge forcing sheds. I force my rhubarb but I don’t have a forcing shed or a whippet but I do have several rather fetching flat caps, I just use an old inverted black water butt. I picked the first crop this weekend, hence this post. As you can see from the photo at Ocado’s prices I picked about £50 worth!
The one problem with Rhubarb is getting young people to eat it, in a corn syrup world they find even the taste of even the sweeter pink stalks too tart. At best I get a begrudging push around the plate until they decide that they are full and they raid the fridge for a proper pudding after a semi-respectable pause.
In fact rhubarb is so part of UK culture the very wonderful Eric Sykes filmed Rhubarb, a short film in which the only word spoken was rhubarb. Then he remade it years later as Rhubarb Rhubarb, here’s a link to the film here. Enjoy.
If that is not enough there was the 1970′s tea time joy of Roobarb and Custard one of the best children’s programmes ever made a youtube link to an episode is here. Enjoy again.
As this is a food blog I should write about the culinary uses of rhubarb and if I can get organised I will write some follow up posts on this theme. To start off we can remember that the simplest way of eating rhubarb is to dip tender young shoots in sugar something commonly given to children over the years. Some people believe you shouldn’t do this because rhubarb is poisonous uncooked because it contains Oxalic acid which is destroyed when cooked. This is correct but you would need to eat over 5 kilo’s of uncooked rhubarb at a sitting to cause any harm which is an unlikely event.
Here’s a simple and slightly unusual recipe for Rhubarb Schnapps
- 1 Kilo Rhubarb cut into 2/3 cm lengths
- 300 grams sugar
- 1 bottle of vodka (as cheap as you like)
Put all the ingredients into an old sweet jar or similar and stir daily until the sugar is dissolved. Ready to drink after 4 weeks. You can serve your Schnapps straight from the jar or decant into a bottle. It has a lovely colour and is delicious served chilled.
I am thinking about popping in some Orange peel in my next batch as orange and Rhubarb are good partners, I’ll give it a go, I’ve got loads of Rhubarb!
I made reference in an earlier post to studying a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC on the Science of Gastronomy, I’m still waiting for a start date but in the interim I have just started an Algebra course not because I am an uber geek (well not completely) but because I would like to study the MOOC astronomy courses but its 35 years since I was at school so my algebra is far too weak for success. Therefore if I want to study astronomy I need to sort my algebra, time to get busy doing some preparatory study. The algebra course gives 20% of the marks are from a weekly exam or test and I planned to spend Sunday, completing the first exam. Well that was the plan.
Julie had a fund raising dinner Saturday night with her keep fit group and got back in the early hours declaring that she was returning the following day to finish clearing up and to have lunch with the other committee members and their partners, my presence was expected. Yes dear, at least I could sort my exam before and after lunch. That would work!
Sunday morning nice and leisurely, listening to the radio, listening to the sound of barking dogs, lots and lots of barking dogs! Checked it out to find that some hunters’ dogs had cornered a wild boar in our garden, confusion reigned not helped by the fact that the boar and the dogs ended up in our pond. A little while later there’s a dead boar and a bunch of apologetic but triumphant hunters. A messy end to a hunt but don’t kid yourselves the boar got a better deal than most animals reared for meat and living in the heart of a rural community such things are ever present. By the time it was all sorted it was time to go for lunch and to clean the Salle de Fêtes, never mind I’ll do my exam after lunch.
Off to the Salle de Fetes to join a group of 16 for lunch, of course lunch is the main meal of the week so it wasn’t rushed! But it was a lesson in rural French dining.
Epine or Blackthorn Aperitif with Rillettes
Garden salad and cheese
Rouserolles with crème anglais
This is all well and good, the salad was particularly good, freshly picked from one of the diner’s greenhouse and the company was warm and welcoming and coincidentally several of the dishes I have written about in this blog, just click on the links for further details. The problem was drink, I do have some self-control and steered my way through the Epine, the Rose, a youthful and a mature Cotes du Rhone with some success. My undoing was the production of a basket of bottles containing assorted homemade eau de vie and Marc’s which were up to 30 years old! Now even if you are French this is a notable event and it would have been discourteous to not sample a representative range so a little tour through eau de vie de cerise (9 years), eau de vie de poire (18 years), eau de vie cidre and eau de vie prune 30 years and finally Marc (31 years), the oldest had become a wonderful nut brown and all where smooth, soft and full flavoured. Well that was the final nail in the exam coffin. I did manage to help tidy up but I noted that the cleaning of the sale de fetes only took about 20 minutes and even then most activity was focused on washing up after the lunch we had just enjoyed!
Then home for a little lie down.
a leg of fresh wild boar
To end the day one of the hunters called by with a leg of wild boar as a recompense for the inconvenience of earlier in the day, I don’t know whether to freeze it for roasting or stewing or make it into a dried ham. The idea of a dried wild boar ham is currently favourite, what do you think?
p.s. Just in case you are worried about the exam I missed, I am allowed to complete the exam late but with a 10% penalty. The final exam is 80% of the marks, interim tests or exams are 20% of the marks, therefore 10% of interim exams or tests = 2% ÷ 10 (the number of interim tests or exams) = 0.2% penalty, I can live with that.
It’s interesting how things come around, when I was at school I always preferred going for a drink over lessons and definitely over exams.
We have snow all around chez nous, across France and the UK, in an unusual burst of commonsense I agreed to postpone Monday’s training course and I have reaped the benefits of being able to stay at home for a couple of extra days.
Snowy Garden Veg
One benefit was that despite the snow I could spend a bit of time in the garden, mostly sorting wood but I picked some snow covered veg for tonight’s dinner a simple no fuss Roast Chicken with trimmings and an Apple Crumble made with ground hazelnuts. I’m supposed to be watching what I eat but snow on the ground is a winning excuse for comfort food.
Most people think of their gardens being productive in the summer or autumn but there is quite a range of winter veg in ours. Currently we have wild rocket, leeks, broccoli, carrots and beetroot to name just a few. A frugal approach to good fresh produce is to try and ensure you have something to pick or lift all year round and all veg is at it’s cheapest and best just picked from the garden.
We’re finishing our comfort Chicken Dinner with a Hazelnut Apple Crumble, making it is simplicity it’s self. You can just add chopped Hazelnuts to the crumble mix but I prefer adding ground hazelnuts to the crumble mix, it gives a more aromatic and smoother texture. Getting hold of ground hazelnuts can be problematic but you can easily make your own by toasting of what you need and blitzing until ground in a food processor.
To make Hazelnut and Apple Crumble (for 2)
- Some apples (as many as you need)
- 40gs flour
- 40gs Ground hazelnuts
- 30gs of sugar + a bit for the apples
Apple and Hazelnut Crumble
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and about a dessert spoon full of sugar to an oven proof dish leaving about 3cms of space at the top of the dish.
Gently rub together the flour, ground hazelnuts and butter and add the crumble mix to the chopped apple mix. Bake in a oven at 190C for 40 minutes. Serve warm with custard or cream.
Over Christmas and New Year we were lucky enough to have Julie’s sisters and their families stay at Chez Nous and the stay gave me an opportunity to do some cooking with the youngsters. I really like cooking with young people if you can chose the right recipe or technique they enjoying the cooking and subsequent eating with an enthusiasm that you would very rarely get from an adult.
We had 3 youngsters stay, Oscar who is a self assured 5, Alex who is 12 and Lydia who is 15. Alex and Lydia have been subjects of earlier posts but Oscar is a newcomer to my little blog. I am going to write 3 maybe 4 posts on this theme and first up in age order is Oscar and how to make Sherbet.
I love Sherbet, no sweet propels me back to childhood faster than Sherbet, with that fizzy sugary hit. The fact that it lasted for ages and it was cheap meant it was always a favourite for me.
Small children love making sweets the realisation that they can make what they buy from a Sweet shop is a bit of a revelation thal always brightens their day.
Making Sherbet is easy and entirely suitable activity for a 5 year old as long as you don’t tell their dentist.
Ingredients for 4 people (or less)
- 50g Icing sugar
- 1 tsp Citric acid
- 1 tsp Bi-carbonated soda
- Hard liquorice 1 stick per person
Sieve the Icing sugar, bi-carbonated soda and citric acid into a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
Place bowl in the centre of the table and distribute liquorice stick between diners, tuck in.
Oscar making sherbet. The pictures a bit rubbish but it’s all i’ve got. I didn’t take any photos of the finished product because I was busy fighting of Oscar’s Mum, Dad, Aunties and Uncles so I could get my share of the Sherbet
Getting citric acid can be a problem as many chemists have stopped stocking it, but home brew shops often have it available and specialist cookery shops such as Lakelands also keep it in stock, a little goes a long way.
Another problem in my house are two legged fridge mice who raided the fridge for my stash of hard liquorice, there was barely enough to go round. Currently said fridge mouse is in Australia the traditional dumping ground for English criminals though as he is enjoying 40 C temperatures compared to the cold European winter he is not suffering!
If you happen to read about me in the about page of this blog you will know that I work in education and it follows that I have a predisposition to learning activities. My brother Andrew (who is so bright his buttons shine) pointed me towards ‘MOOC’s’ – Massive Open On-Line Courses’ and I was interested.
MOOC’s enable anyone with an internet connection to study university level course units for free. In a world were higher education costs are becoming unaffordable to many and unaffordable and inaccessible to most in the developing world, MOOC’s could be a learning revolution. If you want to learn more about MOOC’s have a look at Daphne Koller’s TED presentation here.
Why all this stuff about MOOC’s on a cooking blog? Well anyone with a passing interest in cooking knows that cooking is a form of applied chemistry and now MOOC’s gives anyone the opportunity to study – The Science of Gastronomy with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The course blurb says
This course introduces students to elements of science lying behind cooking and cuisine preparation. The ultimate goal is to help students recognize the importance of scientific principles being applied in everyday life, so that they will appreciate and be able to apply some of these principles in their future cooking practice.
Over 6 weeks the syllabus will cover;
- Gastronomy: cuisine preparation, the chemical and physical principles
- Enjoyment of Food: parameter of excellence – the basis of taste
- The Basis of Flavor: the aroma and taste-aroma interactions
- Aroma and Coloring: coloring-association and improvement of perception
- Texture of Food: the highlight of contrast
- Fruits and Vegetables: properties, nutrition and enhancement of quality in cooking
- Meat: properties, taste, aroma and texture
- Meat: ways to modify the texture, enhance the taste and smell of meat
- Meat: precision cooking – how to cook a perfect steak?
- Sauce: modification of the viscosity and flavor of sauce
- Dessert: manipulation of desired texture: gluten formation and protein denaturing
- Examples of Dessert Making: ice-cream with liquid nitrogen and ginger milk curd
The course start date has not been fixed yet but you can sign up for free here.
What’s not to like? If you read this blog and you sign up do let me know, we can meet in a virtual class room, hopefully soon.
This is a very overdue post, but as it was part written you’re going to get it anyway.
France like the UK had a very doubtful summer with wet weather and cool temperatures, as a consequence the local tomato crop was a bit of a disaster attacked relentlessly by Odium (mildew) therefore when out local supermarket was selling tomatoes for 1 euro a kilo I fell on them like a rabid dog. They weren’t going to stay at that price for long.
It’s all very well buying 7 or 8 kilos of something because they are cheap but what are you going to do with them? Well my plan was eat some as per usual, make a batch of roast tomato soup and the rest would be dried.
I love sun-dried tomatoes, you can add them to nearly anything to get an intense tomatoey kick, and they transform a pizza, make a tomato sauce and help create a lip-smacking Bloody Mary. I also like them because I will get a taste of summer in the depths of winter, I’m fussy about what I will eat on one level I’ll eat anything but on another level I prize seasonality and quality. I do compromise, I will begrudgingly eat tomatoes out of season but you won’t catch me eating strawberries or asparagus anytime soon. Drying tomatoes just extends the season for my purist myopia.
Liking sun-dried tomatoes is one thing, but making them in the late summer sun in mid France is another, I think a little helping hand is required. Fortunately making them in a cool oven is simplicity itself.
Take some tomatoes and place on a baking tray. If you are using cherry tomatoes simply put cross I the top and add a pinch of salt and finely chopped garlic. If your using large tomatoes cut in half scoop out the seeds, flatten slightly and sprinkle with salt and finely chopped garlic. Sprinkle the tray of tomatoes with thyme and place in a cool oven at about 80C – 90C until dried. I know that’s a bit vague, to get semi-dried tomatoes which I prefer takes about 8 hours but you must store them covered in oil. This is not really a hardship as the oil is delicious sprinkled over pasta, pizza etc.
Completely dried tomatoes take about 12 to 16 hours but if dry enough can be stored as they are, but they will need soaking in warm water for about 20 minutes.
That’s it, as you can see from the photographs they look good in a suitable jar, I’ll spread the love and the season by giving some away as presents.