Peas are in season and generally I will always advocate eating fresh, seasonal produce but peas are actually the exception to the rule unless you grow your own. The reason being that they lose their sweetness just a couple of hours after picking which is why the packets you buy from the freezer will proudly tell you just how quickly they were frozen after picking.
Having said that a lovely light pea and mint soup is the essence of summer and it’s pretty, and yummy and only requires the minimum of ingredients and effort. What’s not to like?
500g frozen peas (petit pois are ideal)
A cup of pea
1 clove garlic
small handful mint
4 tbsp double cream (not essential – naughty but nice)
Melt the butter in a large pan, add the sliced onions and cook until soft and translucent (don’t let them caramelise), add the crushed garlic and stir for another 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of sea salt, throw in the peas with a pinch of sugar, add the mint and cook for a few minutes until just tender. Blitz in a blender and if you want to make it really special, sieve it for a velvety finish. Check for seasoning and stir in the cream, or if you want to posh it up, whip the cream and pop a dollop on top with a few crushed pink peppercorns.
Serve with sippets….whoever knew that sippets is the English word for croutons and was in general English usage for hundreds of years? The crouton took over sometime in the 20th Century and the sippet disappeared. A crying shame I say. I hereby begin a campaign to save our sippets.
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
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’m on the verge of something very exciting. The wonderful No84 Café and Eatery at Echo Square in Gravesend have agreed to let me run a pop-up restaurant….dates and full details to follow but the first of a three is on Saturday April 27th and the theme is pork and apples.
Roundwood Farm in nearby Meopham, rear rare breed pigs which roam freely amongst the apple orchards. The lovely Bev who runs the farm with her husband will be coming along to give a short talk on the evening too. It should be really good but as you know it will all hang on the food – no pressure then.
On Saturday, I decided to do a practice run on the dessert I have in mind. Arlette with pressed apple terrine. I know Heston Blumenthal has a recipe in his ‘Heston at Home’ book and I found another version on the internet by Mark Jordan. Both recipes are a layered dessert with ‘wafers’ and fillings layered up like a classic millefeuille. The Mark Jordan version used opaline (a ‘glass like’ caramel wafer) rather than the puff pastry caramelised wafer favoured by Heston. I thought it might be more impressive but having tried both the Heston version is by far the easiest to make.
It is simply puff pastry rolled paper thin and liberally dusted with icing sugar and then baked between two baking sheets to stop the pastry rising. You end up with gorgeous, sweet, caramelized pastry, which actually tastes nothing like pastry. Working quickly when they come out of the oven you can cut them into the desired shape using a template.
That said, I will adapt the recipe for opaline to give me my caramel ‘sculptures’ to decorate the finished dessert. It involves making a simple caramel by melting sugar, pouring into a baking tray lined with parchment, allowing it to cool and then blitzing the whole thing in a food processor. The resulting powder is then finely dusted onto a lined baking sheet and put into a hot oven for one minute to re-melt. It really does come out like caramel coloured glass.
Phew, that bit nailed, now onto the pressed apples. Actually that was also straightforward, at least to start with. Copious amounts of peeling, coring and slicing on a mandolin later, the apple slices (all 2mm thick) were neatly layered on yet another baking sheet (by now I had to borrow some from the neighbours) each layer being brushed with an apple flavoured sugar syrup that was allowed to turn quite dark (the finished taste bearing a resemblance to that of a really lovely, deeply caramelized tarte tatin). Then came the deceptively simple instructions:
“Place in a low oven (90 degrees) for 13 hours weighted down with something heavy.”
Really? What the hell can I use?
Wall bricks! Perfect. I found two buried in soil in the garden (don’t ask!), hauled them in washed them stuck them on top of the apples (protected by yet another baking sheet) and 13 hours later had the most amazing pressed apple terrine to slice up using the same template as before and 2 lovely warm wall bricks to use as hot water bottles in my apple pie bed!!
The apple jelly came next. I didn’t have the pectin powder stated in the recipe, you try finding it in Tesco/Asda/Sainsburys/Morrisons, so tried a number of substitutes including pectin sugar, arrowroot and agar-agar but nothing really worked. I started from scratch and made a simple apple jelly using some good quality apple juice and gelatine and it made a fine jelly but it didn’t work at all layered in the dessert. It made it too unstable. I tried cubing it and serving it on the side but my band of intrepid tasters all agreed the jelly wasn’t necessary.
So the final version went something like this:
• A slice of pressed apple terrine
• A caramelised wafer
• Piped cream flavoured with a few drops of rosewater
• A caramelised wafer
• A slice of apple terrine
• A caramelised wafer
And sprinkled on the top the following mix:
Crystallized fennel seeds, vanilla seeds from the pod, sea salt, crumbled wafer (the unused bits from slicing the wafer) and some broken bits of opaline. Also dotted on top, some small cubes of peeled apple. Sounds over the top but by god it tastes good.
I served it with some good quality ice cream, a shard of opaline and butterscotch sauce.
Thank you to my trusted tasters, I’m now happy with my dessert. If anyone has a surplus of apples, a couple of wall bricks hanging about and a spare 18 hours, message me and I’ll send you the recipe.
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!
Hi Colin, well you are currently visiting so you know all about this but thought I would share. I am discovering the joys of being a food technology teacher in that I just HAVE to practise before I preach! And what a busy weekend it has been. Having taught 3 lessons of fruit salad with year 7′s on Friday, Saturdays breakfast was easily sorted, and thankfully no injuries sustained by the pupils – good to know they are listening I guess. So the next challenge was my year 10′s next week are Viennese whirl’ing it. Having never ever piped before it had to be tried. First attempt thought the mixture was a little thick, added a little milk but once cooked they spread a little. Second time round I spent more time making sure the butter was very very soft before adding the sugar and this seemed to make the difference required. Hopefully you agree from your tasting that the outcome was finally a success. Very rich so not a lot needed consumption wise, but lovely all the same.
Time to add recipe;
150g/6oz Margarine or butter (I used butter)
50g/2oz Icing sugar
A few drops of vanilla essence
150g/60z Plain flour
For Whirls – 8 glace cherries if you like them – I don’t!
25g/1oz margarine or butter
50g/2oz Icing sugar
Oven Gas 3 / 160C
1. Grease baking tray.
2. Cream butter and sugar.
3. Add vanilla essence.
4. Fold in flour.
5. Put mixture in piping bag.
6. Whirls – pipe on baking tray (see comments below). Place ½ cherry on top.
7. Fingers – pipe 6cm long.
8. Bake for 15 mins.
9. Fingers – make butter cream combining butter and icing sugar together.
10. Sandwich fingers together with butter cream – be very delicate they break easily as I discovered!
11. Melt chocolate in basin over boiling water i.e. Bain Marie style.
12. Dip ends of fingers in chocolate. Leave to cool.
Now the reason it took two attempts was to get the piping somewhere near right. There are two ways of doing the whirls. Try piping a number 6, so more like a coil than a full circle. Alternatively hold nozzle upright above tray. Start piping in one spot and when you get the desired size lift up.
With the fingers I actually dipped them before sandwiching together seems to make more sense that way. I just did a straight line for mine but you can zig-zag them. Yipee! An excuse to try some more ; )
If you read my last post you will know that I’ve been very virtuous and walking each day but it also gives me an excuse to look out for fruity autumn treasures and surely there is no doubt that the damson is a real gem.
I love damsons and I chanced upon the most glorious stash two weeks ago so armed with two carrier bags, Jim and I made our way back on Saturday. Within 20 minutes or so we had picked just shy of 7lbs. They were at the perfect stage of ripeness and it was tempting to gorge on them but no doubt that would have had disastrous consequences and anyway I had other things in mind.
Like the rest of the nation (except Jim, who incidentally doesn’t like Strictly either, but that’s an ongoing argument between the two of us!) I am hooked on the fabulous Great British Bake Off and was inspired to make something I had never made before – Queen of Puddings – no, it isn’t a moniker for the majestic Mary Berry although it should be.
A quick Google search soon bought up the recipe used on the show a couple of weeks ago, which version is of course, attributed to the great Mrs Berry herself. It comprises a bottom layer of baked custard, a thin layer of homemade jam using summer fruits and a meringue topping. Since I had damsons galore, I decided I would make a few changes to the recipe.
First off, the bulk of the damsons were destined for jelly rather than jam…you try stoning 3lbs worth of damsons…far easier to push the whole lot through a sieve and the end result is just so wonderfully deep purple, red and well, jammy. So on that basis, I thought I would make a damson and apple compote for the middle layer instead. That decided, it needed a further twist to really elevate it into autumn, so I decided to fold roasted, chopped hazelnuts into the meringue, sprinkling a good portion on top. Hazelnut meringues are very popular in France where you regularly see them piled high in boulangerie windows. That sorted, all that remained was to give it a go.
And the results? There were five of us for Sunday lunch and the fight for seconds almost caused a revolution. I can honestly say that I have never seen a queen made such short work of, since Marie Antoinette suggested cake!
For the custard:
600ml/1 pint full-fat milk
25g/1oz butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1 lemon, zest finely grated
50g/2oz caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, yolks only
75g/3oz fresh white breadcrumbs
For the compote:
1 medium sized cooking apple, peeled and cored
4-5 tablespoons of castor sugar (or to taste)
For the meringue:
175g/6oz caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, whites only
50g/2oz chopped roasted hazelnuts (plus a few for sprinkling on top)
• Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and grease a 1.4 litre/2½ pint shallow ovenproof dish (one that will fit into a roasting tin) with butter.
• For the custard base, very gently warm the milk in a small saucepan. Add the butter, lemon zest and the 50g/2oz of sugar, stir until dissolved.
• Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour the warm milk into the eggs, while whisking.
• Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the base of the buttered dish and pour over the custard. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes, so the breadcrumbs absorb the liquid.
• Carefully transfer the dish to a roasting tin and fill the tin halfway with hot water. Bake the custard in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until the custard has set. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little.
• Meanwhile, put the damsons into a pan and warm over a gentle heat. Once they’ve softened and released their juice, remove the stones. (I removed them from the heat, let them cool slightly and simply fished them out). Add the chopped apple and stir gently until it resembles a soft compote although retaining some ‘body’ .
• Add the sugar and cook for a further three minutes.
• Whisk the egg whites using an electric hand whisk on full speed until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the remaining 175g/6oz sugar a teaspoon at a time, still whisking on maximum speed until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Fold in the toasted chopped hazelnuts. Transfer the meringue mixture to a piping bag. (I didn’t pipe and it was still fine).
• Spread 4-5 tablespoons of compote over the set custard, then pipe the meringue on top. (or spoon making some lovely peaks). Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts.
• Lower the oven temperature to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and return the pudding to the oven (not in the roasting tin with water) for about 25-30 minutes until the meringue is pale golden all over and crisp. Serve warm.
Hello, Sandra here again for a guest spot. It’s been ages since I blogged and a lot has happened in the meantime. One major change is that Jim and I are now spending lots of time in Kent, it does have some drawbacks (e.g it’s not France!) but we are lucky enough to be on the very edge of some beautiful countryside and I’ve been going out walking every day (mostly) spotting lots of lovely free bounty as I go.
A couple of weeks ago, taking full advantage of some late summer sunshine,I went out armed with a backpack, secateurs, gloves and my Mum and her friend, Cherrill (left). We were a sociable little group of three but it’s quite amazing how many people stop on those windy country lanes, to ask what you’re picking. Some are just intrigued; others have foraging tales to share. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours.
Messing about in the kitchen is one of my favourite things so two days later, I treated myself as it also happened to be my birthday, and set about transforming my harvest into yummy things to eat and drink. Mum helped me strip elderberries, prick sloes and chop rosehips all jobs which can be tedious and time consuming but we chatted and she told me tales of jam making in her mother’s kitchen (I know it’s now starting to sound very sugary but on this occasion I’m not going to apologise, it was my birthday after all!)
For me, one of the pleasures of cooking is the anticipation, reading recipes and planning. There are some great food blogs out there (including yours of course, Colin.) Whilst searching for recipes I found myself wandering along the Folsom Way down by the American River where one such happy blogger found his elderberries. Now I have never been there but I could just imagine it. And then of course Johnny Cash popped into my head to provide the soundtrack to my little adventure. Who ever knew how exciting foraging could be!
Several hours later I had sloes steeping in gin, elderberry cordial, rosehip syrup and four blackberry and apple pies, one to eat straightway, the rest for the freezer.
The recipe for sloe gin is dead easy and can be found at
The only thing I would say, is double the amounts given; it is so delicious and makes fab Christmas presents – if you can bear to give it away. Most people drink sloe gin as a liqueur but I like mine as an aperitif, long, with tonic and ice.
Blackberry and apple pie, you’ll have your own favourite recipe so I won’t go into one here only to say that I add an egg to my shortcrust pastry to make it that bit richer and I favour the deep-fill option. It looks so impressive and you get so much more of those lovely autumn fruits.
Elderberry cordial….hmmm. It’s the first time I’ve made it and I have to say I’m not convinced. So far I’ve only tried it as a soft drink, I haven’t yet got round to drizzling over pancakes or the like but I am disappointed, particularly as the elderflower is one of my absolute favourites. The jury is out on that one.
Rose bush laden with hips
Finally to the rosehips. For the recipe I turned to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and although I made it slightly differently to him, the end results are amazing. The syrup looks beautiful and has the most amazing subtle but distinctive flowery/fruity taste. I’m planning on jealously guarding the syrup until December when I shall transform it into a sorbet – literally just pour the syrup into an ice cream maker and churn – and we’ll savour it between courses on Christmas Day.
Rosehip Syrup Recipe
1 Kg Rosehips
1 Kg Castor Sugar
Wash and chop the rosehips (after battling with a knife and chopping board, I threw mine into a food processor and pulsed until they were randomly chopped, much easier).
Bring 2 litres of water to boil in a large pan, throw in the rosehips and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Strain the rosehips through muslin or a clean cloth, squeezing out as much flavour as you can. Reserve the liquid.
Transfer the rosehip pulp back to the pan with another litre of water and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse overnight. Strain the rosehips as above. Add the liquid to your reserved amount and discard the pulp.
Bring the liquid to the boil and continue boiling until it has reduced by half. Add the sugar, stir until dissolved and boil hard for 5 minutes. Bottle into sterilised jars or bottles.
Coming up soon: Damsons and Retro Puds!
A summer salad that is very French in it’s conception is Salade aux gesiers (Gizzard Salad), I say very French as most nations in the English speaking world struggle with the idea of eating gizzards but cooked low and slow (confit) they really are delicious. Like 99% of French people we buy ours ready confitted in the supermarket and they just require reheating in a frying pan.
Salade aux gesiers a la maison
A gizzard is part of a muscular bird’s stomach that is designed to retain grit to help grind the seeds that a bird digests. The gizzards used in France are commonly from Chickens or Ducks. If you are in the UK or elsewhere finding gizzards in the supermarket can be problematic, your best bet is to find a traditional butcher, order on-line or pick some up if your visiting France.
The are a myriad of ways to prepare Salade aux gesiers, when I make mine I always ensure that I use roughly chopped walnuts, chunky homemade garlic and olive oil croutons and some fresh herbs, typically flat leak parsley and chives. I prefer to dress the salad in a walnut oil vinaigrette but any vinaigrette will do as long as it is not to bland.
A general recipe for 4 people would be
Add to a bowl and mix the following ingredients;
- Several handfuls of chopped mixed salad leaves.
- A good handful of garlic croutons
- A couple of handfuls of chopped cucumber
- 2 or 3 chopped tomatoes
- A handful of finely chopped spring or white onions
- A handful of roughly chopped walnuts
- A small handful of mixed herbs
In a frying pan reheat your confitted gizzards on a fairly high heat roughly chop and add to your salad.
Mix in the walnut oil vinaigrette and serve. To make walnut oil vinaigrette simply add to a small jam jar 4 tbs of walnut oil, 1 tbs of white wine vinegar, a good sprinkling of salt and black pepper and 1/2 tsp of mustard, shake well.
I know it’s a hassle getting hold of the gizzards but this recipe is quick, simple, healthy and filling. If you can overcome any prejudice you might have about eating gizzards I assure you you are in for a tasty treat.
As summer wraps its rain soaked charms on France (yes it’s wet in France this year), my thoughts turn in hope to summer cuisine. A simple and frugal favourite is Tapenade bursting with Mediterranean ingredients – Black olives, sharp capers and mouth flavour filling anchovies. Roughly blitzed together with a few other flavours I can nearly forgive the weather outside.
Tapenade is one of those ridiculously expensive items that supermarkets love to mark up at a huge price, sometimes up to £3.50 for a little over 100 grams. Given the ease of manufacture if you buy their fancy little jars that tearing sound you hear at the checkout is you being ripped off.
Spread on toast, stirred into pasta or smeared onto a leg of lamb sunshine will cut through the rainiest of days and warm your heart.
To make Tapenade you need
- 1 clove of crushed garlic
- Juice of a lemon
- 3 tbsp of capers
- 6 anchovy fillets
- Approximately 250g black pitted olives (about a can)
- small bunch fresh parsley roughly chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A good slug of olive oil as good a quality as you can afford, if you must measure it about 4 tbsp
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until a rough textured paste is formed, take care not blitz the mixture to a smooth puree it is best with a chunky texture.
Tapenade and a Magarita (strictly for medicinal purposes, if I drink enough I think it's stopped raining)
That’s it, I recommend making some toast while you are assembling and blitzing the Tapenade ingredients. When your Tapenade is ready spoon some on to the bread and enjoy, if you ensure that your other hand is holding summery cocktail such as a Kir Royale, Pimms or as in the picture a Margarita you are ahead of the curve! Enjoy