A visit to a local Michelin Starred restaurant and Moules !

This week saw us wandering down the road to a restaurant near by. Himself had a birthday and as such we went to Le Gavroche, owned by Michel Roux Junior. He is probably best known for being one of the leading lights of Master Chef, the professionals, but also he is the son of Albert, who along with his brother Michel had the very famous Waterside Inn.

Le Gavroche which means The Paperboy or Urchin and the Logo is just that, a Parisian ragamuffin, just think of Les Miserables. Le Gavroche was started by the Roux brothers and today is run by Michel Jr. ( although he has now dropped the Jr. title.)

The restaurant is on a small Mayfair street, next to the Old USA Embassy, one almost misses it walking down the street, a small glass fronted door, a door bell and a smart young doorman opens it and meets and greets before escorting down the stairs to a discreet dining room which is deceptively large but one’s table gives everyone the feeling that they are in a relatively small dining room. The most I could see at any one time were a mere 17!

The menu is relatively small, a tasting menu which can be served with a wine flight or not and a small à La carte, which basically repeated parts of the tasting menu though with larger portions. We chose the À La Carte. Himself chose the Fagottini aux Champignons, Ragoût de Morilles, Fèves et Madère, Ail des Ours and myself the Seared scallops, with sea vegetables and a smoked eel sauce.

For our main, he had Longe de Veau, Petits Pois, Oignons et Salade Sucrine whilst I took the Côtelettes d’Agneau Rôties, Courgette et sa Fleur Farcie, Ail Noir.

For dessert, he insisted that I take the cheese ( just so he could sample some of mine, and he got a mini birthday cake. The bottom line:- the service impeccable, the ambiance really nice as the room felt small and intimate and the food great. Also a wonderful place to people watch and we will go again I am sure!

Back to more mundane things, cooking at home. I had a fish delivery this time from Sykes. What I had forgotten very simply, the fish comes already frozen. This normally does not pose a problem, fish frozen at sea is far better than buying it fresh and then freezing at home. However, I ordered 2 kilos of mussels for which I didn’t really have room for in the freezer and so it was to be mussels for dinner.

As a family, we all eat mussels. Having spent 13 years living in Belgium, where Moules Frites are a national dish how could we not. Our favourite Moules restaurant was Au Vieux Bruxelles. A Hole in the Wall kind of place. Not huge but always busy. In our day it was impossible to book so arriving early was de rigour, or be prepared to wait, and often in the rain. Although they do serve other Belgian specialities, they are renowned for their Moules Frites.as you can see they served them in 11 different ways, ranging from plain to the exotic.

At home we have cooked Moules in a variety of ways but mostly Marinères ( cooked in white wine with tomatoes, garlic and onions. This time round we more or less made Thai mussels with garlic, lemon grass, chillies and lots of coconut milk. As the mussels had been frozen, they were already clean and de-bearding them not necessary.

  • For two hungry people
  • 2 kilos of mussels
  • 4 tablespoons oil ( we used sesame oil)
  • 1 large-Ish white onion finely chopped
  • 4-8 cloves garlic crushed
  • Two or more stems of Lemon grass chopped
  • Spoonful of chillies in oil or some chopped chillies according to taste. You don’t like spicy ? Add some paprika instead.
  • 1can chopped tomatoes
  • 2cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 lemons squeezed
  • A squirt (1”) tomato paste
  • Some salt to taste
  • Very simply
  • Sauté the onion, lemon grass and garlic in the oil until soft but not brown, add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the coconut milk.
  • Bring to the boil, add the mussels, turn to simmer, put on the lid and simmer for about 5 minutes, giving a good shake a couple of times.
  • Remove the lid, check that the mussels have all opens, discard those that have not and serve by squeezing over the lemon juice. Traditionally served with Frites, but we had them with sourdough bread!

Yummy indeed.

Waste not want not.

There has been a lot of hype recently over the cost of living crisis. And it is not just in the UK, but it is where I live and as such it should concern me.

First off, cooking, which is the best / cheapest way to cook, and then food waste.

I have a spanking new Miele Oven and Microwave, but the one I am likely to use on a very regular basis is the microwave. I have had a microwave since 1979. I lugged it home from Sears Roebucks ( we lived in Texas at the time) and fell in love with it. Every weekend, I would play with it, that along with my newly acquired food processor. On moving back to Belgium I had my own cookery school, 60 ladies a month for 7 months of the year, over a period of 10 years! As it was based on “ How to give a dinner party“ lunch was always eaten and wine drank. Himself thought I should have my own recycling bottle bank!

But I digress. Firstly, which appliance is the cheapest to run? Well it is the microwave oven. Not only is it cheap to run, it is cheap to buy and with cooking vegetables for example, quick, and nutritionally very good indeed. More nutrients are preserved than by, say boiling. Boiling vegetables is time consuming, energy consuming and nutrients thrown away down the sink.

Well not surprisingly, Microwave ovens are the cheapest to run costing as little as 7 p a day, whereas a traditional electric oven is nearer £1.00 a day. Dual fuel come in at about 75 p per day and Gas at 33 p. Air fryers at 14 p. Induction hobs are more efficient and therefore cheaper to run, as they heat the pan only and not the entire room, but of course they can be expensive to buy and come with the possibility of needing new pans.

I always cook my vegetables in the microwave and for two of us, I use my microwave rice cooker, which cooks rice very quickly. Popcorn is the easiest thing to do in the Microwave as are sauces, ranging from a simple white sauce to Hollandaise, to Crème Anglaise ( custard) to Bolognaise to Hot Fudge Sauce and Chocolate sauce. Lemon curd is very easy as are Meringues, especially if you want to make Eton Mess. I have to admit that I don’t bake ( but then I don’t bake that often either these days) in the microwave, although a purist will, but I would recommend buying a good microwave instruction book and play with the machine.

And then there is Food Waste. I was raised in the school of Waste Not Want Not. Food was never thrown away and we certainly never got sick from food poisoning and yet nowadays it is a throwaway society. I feel that this partly brought in by stores and governments introducing, Use by and best before dates. What happened to the Smell test, even one of my daughters will throw food away, it if has reached its Best Before date. Dry goods such as rice and pasta last for ages as do tinned goods and then items such as Worcestershire sauce, which get better with age have to have a use by date! Crazy!

If you buy Avocados that are under ripe, then leave one out to ripen and refrigerate the others, as they will ripen slowly in the refrigerator.Don’t ever throw out potatoes, don’t keep in a plastic bag but in a cool dark place, cut off any sprouts and green bits and use, perfectly safe. British people throw away 24 million slices of bread EVERY DAY! Hundreds of uses for stale bread, but bread freezes well and what is even better it can be RE-FROZEN once defrosted! Use stale bread to make breadcrumbs, bread and butter pudding, bread pudding, pain perdu, and pangrattato are just a few of the everyday uses. AND what about Bananas, over 900,000 thrown away daily along with milk ( nearly 500million pints each year) ! Do you buy ready meals and throw some away, well you are in good company as £3.5 billion worth are chucked away each year! Honestly !

So here are a couple of ideas to make the most of goodies you might find lurking in your refrigerator!

My Go To recipe , or not recipe is REFRIGERATOR SOUP.! This made particularly when we are about to leave on a longish trip. A few days beforehand, I raid the refrigerator, put the large saucepan on the stove, peel and chop whatever is there. Usually vegetables but also lettuce. Always ads garlic, onions, maybe ginger and of course stock. In this case I might use a stock cube or two, but if I have real stock ( don’t throw away chicken bones, fish carcass etc, make stock, it freezes well) then I use that. Quantities do not matter. I let everything cook until soft, then when the mixture has cooled somewhat, either chunky pureé with a hand blender or smoother in a liquidiser. I often add cream or milk or yoghurt, really whatever takes my fancy and whatever I have that I need to use. TASTE AND SEASON! Very important. Leave to cool and bag. Zip lock bags are perfect, one bag makes a good lunch time bowl of soup. FREEZE FLAT, saves a lot of room in you freezer.

The other Go To, use everything up option is to make a vegetable curry. Recipes abound, but again one can be creative, using whatever there is, but always sauté some onions along with some Garlic to begin with. Peel and chop all the vegetables, and to make things go faster,these can all be pre-cooked in the microwave. Add curry powder , some Garam Masala, salt and pepper, maybe some chilli to the onions and mix well, and cook for a few minutes in either Ghee or oil, it really doesn’t matter. Then I usually add some creamed coconut and some coconut milk, along with the vegetables. Serve on rice and garnish with coriander, if there is any left! Again, flat pack and freeze, ready for dinner when you need it!


ZUT Alors! Où ce trouve Le Moutarde?

Well apparently not in the supermarkets in France. At the start of our annual sejour en France, the first thing we do is an enormous grocery shop, especially as some of our kids, and their kids are about to arrive.

We both grab a trolley ( chariot) for which of course you need an Euro coin ( but better still a Jeton which they give you for free! This is France after all!) We set out on our mission, Himself to find, Beer, Wine, Long Life Milk, Orange Juice, Apple Juice, Toilet Rolls, Kitchen Rolls, dishwasher tablets, salt and finish. His mission to find all the things which we need that are particularly Bulky/ Heavy, whereas mine is to source fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products , biscuits for snacks, bread ( remember how to use the slicing machine) and anything else that I have forgotten to put on my list. And I forgot mustard, but I got the mayonnaise and the mustard mixed with mayonnaise, the olive oil, the balsamic but how did I forget the mustard ?

Enroute home back up all of the hairpins we stopped to get petrol and I ran into another store…… no mustard ! I joked that there seemed to be a shortage of mustard. The following day, into my local store ( not my favourite) the only mustard that was on the shelf was from POLAND! Zut alors que s’est-il passé avec la moutarde française? Well there is a shortage and people are Stock Piling!

Dijon mustard has been around since the 13 C, made in the town of Dijon, in Burgundy. Blizarrely , unlike Champagne, Brie, Puy lentils, Dijon mustard does not have a regional designation ( AOP or AOC) and therefore can come from anywhere. Amora Maille was one of the biggest Dijon mustard producers, but the factory closed in 2008. Although Maille and Amora are still made, but are owned by Unilever.

Today, Edmund Fallot ( founded in 1840j remains in Dijon and is perhaps the only true Dijonbais mustard makers left. Eldest daughter ( @globetotting.com) recently went on a press trip to Dijon with her three kids, where they went to Edmund Fallot and even had a mustard making class. There they were able to grind the seeds, add the vinegar and choose the flavour, ranging from blackcurrant, honey and balsamic, grains, honey and smoked paprika, tarragon, green pepper and even gingerbread. They brought the samples with them and so we were able to sample them all.

So why is there a shortage? The French consume about a kilo of mustard per person a year. But that is not the reason. War and Climate change is the answer. Drought in Canada last year meant that the Brown mustard ( Dijon mustard is made with brown seed) seed harvest was very poor, and the war in Ukraine has meant that there has not been an alternative source! Quell Horreur!

Enough of mustard. The little ones ( not so little) have each cooked dinner this last week. Tess (12) made Spring Rolls and Pad Thai, whilst Alfie ( almost 15) made Teriyaki Chicken and an Asian Cucumber Salad, and young Sam, helped with making and cooking hamburgers!

Making the Spring Rolls was a bit of a challenge. Finding the bean sprouts was just the start and eventually found them in tins! Then onto the wonton/ pastry skins. What we found worked but ended up making long spring rolls, which worked well and were very tasty.

Alfie’s rendition of the Asian cucumber salad was indeed impressive. Apparently he had seen it on TikTok!

  • 6 mini cucumbers or 2 large cut into 3
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 2tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic grated or squeezed
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp seasame seeds
  • Method
  • Cut off the ends of the cucumbers
  • Place 2 chop sticks along the sides of the cucumbers as a guide fro cutting
  • Make thin diagonal cuts until the knife touches the chop sticks,
  • Turn the cucumbers around and cut again but not all the way to the chop sticks
  • Put the cucumbers into a box or bowl and sprinkle with salt to draw out the moisture and leave for about 30-45 minutes
  • Rinse well and pat dry with paper towel
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, refrigerate until ready to serve
  • NB. This can be as spicy or mild as you like. Personally I would use some chilli flakes in oil
  • NB. I have seen a similar recipe but with cooked courgettes.

OOPS! It hasn’t been emptied ( in this case the Herring)

We had Herrings today, I have always eaten herrings cooked by dipping them in flour and gently frying them. This is how my mother cooked them and at the time the local wet fish shop, always had herrings locally caught, ( odd name don’t you think, Wet Fish? Of course they are Wet, ) I have just read that the Scottish way of cooking fresh herrings is to dip them in fine oat meal and then fry ( make note to self to try this next time ……. If there is a next time, but maybe I’ll just go to Billingsgate……. The UK’s large fish market in London).

I’m not sure how often one sees herrings in fish shop these days, in fact, where are the fish shops? Living in central London probably doesn’t help, I could go to the lovely Selfridges ( now owned by a Thai/Austrian group). However, if they did have herrings …. Most unlikely, more like Monkfish or Dover Sole, they would cost an arm and a leg. However, one of my online fish sellers, not only had Rock Salmon ( Huss, or Gurnet, again hard to find) but HERRINGS ! So I ordered some, both the Gurnet and the Herrings. However, they not only came frozen but the herrings had not been cleaned! Didn’t really pose a problem, but brought to mind CHICKENS. Chickens don’t have anything to do with Herrings, but to me they do! Many years ago living in very much rural Normandy, the highlight of my week was to go to the market. The poultry man had fresh chickens and at a good price. I simply asked “c’est qu’ils sont déjà vides?” ( are they already emptied? The reply was also a simple one “Ils sont à vider”( they are to be emptied! But I missed in his thick Norman accent the one little word À ! Needless to say, when I got home I discovered I had to gut the chickens!

Also a long time ago whilst living in the USA, I found that I had an issue with Yoghurts. If I drove 20 miles or so to a health food shop I would have been able to find yoghurts not full of colourants and other additives, but locally it was impossible and so I had one of the first home yoghurt makers. Therefore, I made for my kids, for many years, homemade yogurts, usually plain but sometimes, we called them Jammy Yoghurt , which is when we added a small teaspoon of homemade jam to the bottom of the mixture for a treat.

And so here we are in the French Alpes and I despair, each time we come. The supermarket shelves are full of yoghurt, 692 types to be precise, BUT and it is a But finding just plain old Yoghurt, preferably Greek, preferably Not nonfat ( they have stiffners added ) not with a multitude of flavourings, not with sugar, and most certainly not with chocolate chips. Lidl, the discount supermarket, does a good 1 kilo pot, but Lidl is a 35 minute drive away and so once again I’m making yoghurt.

Weirdly, all those years ago, making yoghurt at home was so simple, so I was surprised upon reading the instructions for my newly acquired British Yogurt maker.

  • Turn the machine on and set at a temperature 42C
  • Boil 1,125 ml milk and whisk
  • Let the milk get cool, to a temperature of 32-43 C ( obviously you will need a thermometer for this as this is the correct temperature)
  • Add125 mls of plain yoghurt and whisk to blend

Well what a PFAFF ! I didn’t do any of this all those years ago and so I experimented.

  • Mix 1 jar ( the jars that come with the machine) of plain Greek / plain yoghurt with 1 jar of dried milk powder.
  • Slowly pour onto this stirring all the while 3 pints ( UK) (7 jars) of Long Life Milk.
  • Pour into the jars and place them without lids into the machine and switch on to 42C and set time to 8 hours!
  • At the end of the time, the machine Beeps . Remove the jars, put lids on and refrigerate!
  • Maybe using Long Life Milk is the answer, certainly here, daughter and granddaughter and even Himself ( he who never eats yoghurt) all declared it a success!

Bang Bang Chicken

The last couple of weeks have been busy. Doing what I am not really sure. A theatre visit here ( Shakespeare’s Globe) to see “Much Ado About Nothing” which was hilarious , and an altogether different theatre visit there and not forgetting a couple of schools performances in between! We had young Sam to stay for a couple of days. He camped out upstairs with us ( thank goodness for A/C). I did Kew Gardens, children’s garden ( read playground…. He played and I sat in the shade) Himself embarked upon the Thames and the Horrible Histories Tour.

Unforgivably, this was our first visit to the Globe, but have already booked for September. For visitors to London, put it on your “To Do “ list. And also The Regents Park Open Air theatre. Actually both the Globe and Regent’s Park are open air, with the Globe being slightly less so. We took Sam to Regents Park to see their production of 101 Dalmatian’s on opening night. My first thought was, how were they going to to perform this…… 101 Dalmatian’s! All I can say is they did! The puppetry was amazing as was the dancing, stage setting and Cruella!

On top of this, Sam had his dance show , which he loved performing in and then both Tess (12) and Alfie(14 ) were in their school end of year show. Both of these showed that Creative Performing Arts are alive and well.

But food? It was in reality a bit hit and miss. Before any of the shows, too early to eat and afterwards too late . Added to that was the winding down of foodstuffs in the refrigerator as we were about to decamp to our mountain home in France.

Moving swiftly along, we are now in the mountains where I have to say, although very warm, not as hot as London. Having checked the house ( read old barn) for no unwanted, usually dead visitors, we then did our obligatory down the mountain to do a mammoth shop. Having so done, it was time to cook something.

I have been in love with Bang Bang Chicken for years. I first had it or a variation of it in Houston Texas, in a restaurant called Houston’s ( it is a small chain) , where it is labelled as Grilled Chicken Salad ( mixed greens, jicama, honey lime vinaigrette and peanut sauce. $18). Next up, The Ivy and I mean The Ivy, not one of its offshoots, the Baby Ivy’s, but the real McCoy. And yes the famed restaurant critic, AAGill wrote the recipe in his book The Ivy. Since then I have come across various versions and in the end it all comes down to what ingredients one has to hand.

Hence, I made Bang Bang Chicken Salad last night and I think it will become one of my ‘ Go To Recipes’ in the future.

  • For two people
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked, grilled, BBQ roasted, sautéed. Sliced thinly
  • A collection of salad greens, to include, lettuce, rocket, grated carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers etc.
  • For the sauce
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons good peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, but choose one that is without additives such as sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 3-4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6-8 Chilli oil or sriracha
  • 2” finely grated ginger
  • 3 cloves grated garlic
  • Handful of salted peanuts
  • Juice and zest of a lime
  • Make a salad to your liking
  • Mix all of the sauce ingredients together until combined. My peanut butter was a bit solid, so heated it gently to make it thinner
  • Top your salad with the sliced chicken pieces. Top with the sauce followed by a handful of chopped salted peanuts.
  • Apparently the original Bang Bang chicken came from the Sichuan area of China, the name Bang Bang came from the sound of the cook bashing the chicken flat !

Alls Well That Ends Well ( Octopus and La Bourride)

I thought I was being very clever on Sunday. Grabbed something out of the Fish freezer, went off to golf, thinking that dinner was more or less sorted upon our return! What I had thought was that Baby Octopus would only need a quick burst on a BBQ and it would be perfect. Quickly made some wonderful Aioli and dinner was ready ! How wrong could I be! Actually I have never cooked octopus before in any shape or form but thought baby octopus, easy ! No! It was an absolute disaster. Hence our Sunday night dinner, was……… a BLT!

Never one to throw away food, nor giving up, when something goes wrong. Therefore, what did I have? A pile of baby octopus and a quantity of really good Aioli. This I just covered and left at room temperature ( it would separate if I had refrigerated it) and the octopus was bagged and refrigerated. But what to do with both of the ingredients? La Bourride sprang to mind

La Bourride, along with Aioli are two of the wonderful dishes of Provence. Normally it would be made with a firm white fish, but I used a variety of fish, basically an assortment of what was in the freezer. I used, Salmon, Tilapia, Cod, Mussels, Squid, Large Shrimp and the Octopus. The octopus I put in some boiling water and cooked on high in the Microwave for 8 minutes or so, having a quick taste during the cooking process to see if was tender. The cooking liquid then became my fish stock.

For the Aioli for +/- 6 people

  • Allow at least 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Yolks of 3 eggs or 2 yolks and one whole egg
  • 1 pint/ approx 1/2 litre good olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Juice 1/2 lemon ( zest, optional)
  • Then normally this is it, but Rose Harissa is a good addition or a squirt of tomato paste.
  • Very easy to make, but don’t be impatient. Using eggs and oil at room temperature.
  • Mix the crushed garlic with the salt and the eggs
  • Slowly VERY Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking all the while. I use a Bamix stick blender to do this.
  • Keep pouring in the oil
  • The sauce gets thicker and thicker and a good Aioli should be almost solid. Add the extras if using them along with the lemon juice.
  • If by any chance the aioli curdles, then beat another egg yolk and slowly pour in the curdled egg mixture beating all the while.

For my Bourride

  • I used a variety of fish as already mentioned along with
  • 1 leek finely chopped
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • +/-20 centilitre olive oil
  • 1 pint stock ( fish or vegetable , shop bought is ok
  • Small carton of thick cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste, chopped parsley as garnish
  • French bread or potatoes to serve
  • Sauté the leeks, onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Remove from pan and put to one side.
  • With a little more oil, sauté the fish that has been cut into bite size bits. When all cooked add the leeks, onion and garlic. Put into a serving dish
  • Bring the stock to the boil,add the cream and pour it over the aioli
  • Pour all over the fish and serve with the potatoes or French bread.
  • Traditionally, the French bread would have been cut into slices and fried as in fried bread, but Himself doesn’t like fried bread so he had potatoes !

Seems a bit of Paff, no not really and the plus point is that excess will freeze easily. I added the Rose Harissa to give a little more oomph and a little more colour! Personal preference!

Mackerel, yet again!

Another week and another mackerel dish. As I have said many times previously, he loves mackerel, or so I am led to believe , but not for me. I actually eat more fish than meat, but I don’t like mackerel nor smoked haddock, both of which Himself likes. I also wouldn’t choose shark but having said that, if it is put in front of me, I might be out of my comfort zone, but would eat it anyway. I’m always on the look for something different and found something the other day which I would recommend. For me this was an easy dinner as everything was either in the freezer ( the fish) , the refrigerator or the store cupboard.

Nduja Mackerel with Chick Peas and Tomatoes. If you don’t already know, Nduja is a spicy paste made with pork sausage from the Calabria region of Italy. Originally, made from leftovers it was eaten by the poorer on bread, but of course in time it has found its way into popular culture and can now be found in finer supermarkets and also on Amazon. It is not cheap, but a little goes a long way, adding colour and spice to many dishes.

For 1-2 people

  • Slug of olive oil
  • An onion finely chopped
  • 100 grms Nduja
  • 5 cloves garlic also finely chopped
  • 400 can chopped tomatoes
  • 400 can of chick peas
  • Small bunch of parsley ( I prefer curly parsley) also finely chopped
  • 2 fillets of mackerel
  • A sprinkling of paprika salt and pepper to taste
  • One lemon zested and juiced
  • Method
  • Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic. Do not let the garlic burn.
  • Add the Nduja and cook gently, smushing it into the onions until it is well blended and the oil turns a deep red.
  • Add the onions and the tomatoes and cook gently for about 15 minutes.
  • Put the lemon juice, parsley and zest into a bowl and mix in some oil. Taste and season. Put to one side.
  • Meanwhile, rub some of the paprika into the mackerel and heat a pan on the stove top ( I use a cast iron grill pan) .
  • Place the mackerel, skin side down. Cook on a medium heat for about 4 minutes, to char the skin, flip over and cook for another minute.
  • Spoon the tomato mixture into a shallow bowl, tops with the mackerel and finish off with the parsley, lemon dressing.

So as you can see, it takes no time at all and of course can be used with other fish.

Eat your Oats

I have been aware of the health benefits of Oats for years. Scientists have only since said that they are among some of the best foods we can eat. They are heart friendly, gut friendly, good for the waist line, lowers cholesterol, controls blood sugar, have some antioxidants that are unique to Oats and also anti inflammatory. They help weight loss, they have a good satiety value ( keeps you feeling satisfied for longer), they have also a low glycemic index, which means that they cause a lower rise in blood sugar. Which are the best Oats to buy! Jumbo, steel cut but avoid instant oats, like Readibrek which are probably fine kids and the elderly or sick as they are as the packet says, instant but are also fine and creamy, but for the rest of us, the chunkier the better!

I have made Bircher Muesli for years, but have just started making pastry using a mixture of oats and flour, a bit of a revelation really, crisper, less time to Bake Blind ( no soggy bottoms here)!

Himself LOVES RHUBARB and being the good wife that I am, I buy it when in season, and of course here in the UK it is available much of the year. Rhubarb is a native of Siberia and as such loves the climate of Yorkshire. In the early 1900’s West Yorkshire produced more than 90% of the worlds forced Rhubarb, and in 2010 it received the honour of PDO ( Protected Designation of Origin) from the European Commission. Forced rhubarb is grown in sheds, the stalks are crimson and the leaves yellowish. The pickers pull the stalks by candlelight, to protect the growth of the plant and by March the season is over.

My GoTo use for Rhubarb is Crumble. I make the crumble mix in advance, using a mixture of flour, oats, butter, sugar and chopped nuts. This I freeze, so that it is there, ready to use, when needed. Rhubarb makes a great sauce to serve with fish, chicken or duck, but also for tarts. Therefore using my recently discovered oat laden pastry, I made a Rhubarb tart.

  • 140 grams coarse toasted oats
  • 140 grams plain flour
  • 60 grams fine caster sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 150 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 beaten egg

Heat oven to 170 C.

Using a food processor, place the oats, flour, salt, sugar and butter into the bowl, switch on and give it a quick wiz and then with the motor running pour in the egg and mixture will go Bonk Bonk and form into a rough ball. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes to form a smooth ball. Roll out carefully into a round about 2” larger than your dish. ( I used a 23 cm non stick tart tin with a loose base). Carefully hang the pastry over the rolling pin and drap it over the tin and mould into the sides using your knuckles. Line the tin with greaseproof paper and fill the time with beans or rice to bake blind for only about 10 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and trim the pastry that might be overhanging the tin.

  • For the filling
  • 125 grms soft unsalted butter
  • 125 grams fine caster sugar
  • 125 grms ground almonds
  • +/-200 grams fine young rhubarb cut into approximately 2” lengths
  • Whipped cream to serve
  • Method
  • Again in a food processor beat together the butter and the sugar until creamy, add the egg and the ground almonds, mix quickly together.
  • Put into the pastry and arrange the rhubarb on top. Return to the oven for about 35 minutes until the tart is golden .
  • Leave to cool before removing from the tin, beware it is just a little fragile!
  • Serve cold or lukewarm with a good dollop of whipped cream.

This week, we have been on a little jolly, eine Fahrt ins Blaue, a magical mystery tour, or very simply a little road trip. Having lived 30 years outside of the UK, our knowledge of it is sadly lacking. Although Himself comes from the North of England close to Liverpool and we both went to college in Manchester, neither of us know it. And so it was that we visited his lovely baby brother and even lovelier wife in Harrogate. We had actually lived in Harrogate for 6 months, albeit a lifetime ago. We couldn’t even remember where had lived, let alone any landmarks. The only thing that I did remember was the market, which sadly is no more.

The last time we were in Harrogate was pre-Covid, we had lunch in the deliberate Old fashioned Betty’s and breakfast in a Farmers Market called Fodder! What a great name! Himself and brother just had to have the Great Yorkshire Breakfast and it didn’t disappoint and myself the crushed avocado on sourdough with watercress, wilted spinach, poached egg ( perfectly cooked) and bacon! Something that the Baby Ivy Cafes in London need to learn !

After Harrogate we meandered through the Yorkshire dales, into Lancashire and to Clitheroe and to COWMANS sausage shop! And quel choix. We bought basic chipolatas, to make Pigs in Blankets for grandkids , then Himself chose Cajun, Moroccan Lamb, herb Italian and Venison. These will be precooked and the more exotic ones frozen for Himself to have whenever.

Moving on from Clitheroe we landed at Northcote, a Michelin star restaurant and hotel. For whatever reason our assigned dinner time was 6.30. As with many good restaurants, seatings are staggered, to enable to kitchen staff and wait staff to function well. The set menu was interesting and although we chose not to take the wine flight we were very happy with our choice. This was partly dictated by nostalgia as on the wine list was a white from the PFALZ, a region in German, where we lived for 3 years. Himself then decided that a red from Georgia , the birthplace of wine, might be interesting, and it was.

Dinner was nice, very nice but the best part was the Veal Sweetbread, which I could have easily eaten much more of it and Himself would really have liked seconds of dessert. The Asparagus was nice , the duck was nice but the turbot underwhelming. Nice being the operative word here.

Service at Breakfast perhaps was not up to Par, ( am I being critical here?) no condiments on the table but dirty dishes left on empty tables. Though my breakfast was nice ( again Avocado etc, but I have to say, it was better in Fodder, as it was served hot and condiments arrived instantly). So will we hurry back, probably not but it was a nice little trip, nonetheless.

Moving on, I wanted to explore Englands largest covered market. To my mind it will be an old fashioned market, selling everything from thimbles to hard hats, to tripe stalls to fish stalls. Disappointment ensued! The Jubilee Weekend, a four day public holiday and the market was closed. To say I was gutted is putting it mildly. Especially as Bury is a stones throw from Morecombe Bay, which is renowned for its seafood, shrimp and clams to the most wonderful fresh fish. I was/ am on the hunt for a fish, which goes by various names, Huss, Rock Salmon or Dog Fish, a wonderful pink white fish, but it is just not pretty., and it be.ones to the Shark family! Growing up on the Kent coast, we caught this fish, when it was about 2 feet long, easy to skin with a single bone down the middle. Great taste and easy to cook and absolutely great as Fish and Chips !

Sadly not to be this time around. Another trip to Billingsate Market, the UK main fish market.

Lemon Curd

Do you love your Microwave or is it just used for heating your cup of coffee?

Mine is in use all the time, from defrosting, to reheating , to concocting, and of course to cooking. I more or less cook all of my vegetables in the microwave, especially using the Lékué containers. It cooks faster ( basically steams) and no nutrients are lost in the cooking water, as there is no added water. I think of my mother, boiling cabbage until it was dead and then drying all that vitamin laden water down the drain.

Yesterday, I noticed that there were a few lemons that needed using and so decided to continue on our Preserve theme. Lemon Curd. Home made lemon curd is miles away both in flavour and texture from Shop bought, but the down side is , it doesn’t have much of a shelf life. The plus side , when making it in the microwave, is , it is made so quickly, that it can be made in the morning and spread on your scones at teatime. Other plus points when making in a microwave are, not having to use a double saucepan or stand stirring nonstop.

  • To make 1-1/2 lbs of curd
  • Finely grated rind and juice of 3 large lemons ( pips removed)
  • 4 eggs beaten well
  • 225 grams, 1 Cup, 8oz caster sugar
  • 115 grams, 4 oz unsalted butter cur into chunks
  • Method
  • Put everything into a microwave proof bowl or jug
  • Cook on high for a total of 5-6 minutes stirring at 1 minute intervals, until the the curd is thick and creamy
  • Put the bowl to cool and whisk at intervals. The curd thickens upon cooling.
  • Pour into warm sterilised jars. Cover and label and REFRIGERATE . Refrigeration is important as there aren’t any preservatives in this and has a very poor shelf life. Actually, as I only had one small jar, I put the extra curd into paper cups and popped them in the freezer.

Of course other citrus fruits maybe used, such as clementines, limes and grapefruit. Probably just one grapefruit will suffice.

When I was at college in Manchester, just around the corner from my hall of residence was a Fish and Chip shop, the local CHIPPY, named locally as Sweaty Betty’s. When really poor we would pop in and ask for a bag of bits, namely all the bits of batter that were to be found in the frying oil,( most probably lard, not oil). They gave them to us for free!

Yesterday whilst having a mini shop in Marks and Spencer’s flagship store, I found Their own brand of CHIP SHOP SCRAPS! At £1 for a tiny box, I don’t think I will bother! I wonder how long they will remain as part of their stock ? Good question !