The Domestic God is Cooking!!!

Himself, AKA the Domestic God has been quiet productive of late. Along, with what  has now become his “go to when in doubt fall back option” Oysters Rockefeller, he has expanded his repertoire to included, Cheese Tart, Savoie style, Cheese Soufflé, grilled Giant Shrimp with chilli enhanced salad, Sole Meunière and the latest Baked Cod with herb crust on a base of snow peas and baby corn!! I can see I will soon be able to put my aprons away and put my feet up and watch the rugby ? whilst he potters in the kitchen, or maybe not!

There is just one downside to his now kitchen independence, going shopping to buy his ingredients, where for the most part it will already be in the house. My pantry is full of basics, from flours of several kinds, to spices to ingredients for Mexican, Chinese, Japanese cuisines and more besides. I like to go to the Meat wholesale market in central London, to stock up, or I go to the largest Whole foods in London, also for their meat. I go to The central fish market, for my fish, or failing that to my local street market, I bring back Abondance cheese from France ( it freezes well) for my soufflés and tarts, he has to learn now to look first ( his cleaning up skills are now quite remarkable!)

Onto Cheese Soufflé, most cook books in the English Language call for cheddar cheese, I guess it is fine, and although has a reasonably strong flavour, does not melt that well and I find it a bit boring. If you are in the US on the other hand, dare I say it, cheese which is to be found in the average supermarket is more like soap, than cheese. I have made in the past, a wonderful hot cheese dip, made with orange processed cheese, melted along with cans of chopped tomatoes with chillies in, Umm, yummy with fresh fried tortilla chips! My friend’s daughter said, Oh, you mean it is plastic cheese and in my family the name has very much stuck!

But back to cheese soufflé, yes use cheddar if you wish but try other cheese out to see which you like the best. As I said, I bring Abondance back from the Savoie, here in central London, the price per kilo can be as much as £39, whereas, I can buy from a local farmer for about €14 a kilo and of course is far superior in flavour.

  1. 50 grms unsalted butter plus a little extra melted for greasing the dish
  2. 40 grms plain flour
  3. 1/2tsp english mustard powder, this is quiet strong but it enhances the cheese
  4. good pinch cayenne pepper, pinch salt and a grind of black pepper
  5. 300 mls milk
  6. 200 grms strong cheese, Gruyère or cheddar
  7. 6 large free range eggs, separated

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan, 200 C gas #6.
  2. Grease a 20cm Soufflé dish lightly.
  3. melt the butter in a saucepan add the flour, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook for a couple of minutes and the gradually stir in the milk making sure after each addition that it is well incorporated. Stir and bring to the boil. It should be thick without lumps BUT if you should have lumps do not despair. Either beat vigorously, attack it with a hand-held electric whisk or even throw it into a food process, DO NOT start over..
  4. remove from heat and add the cheese and the egg yolks.
  5. In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until very stiff, then carefully FOLD them into the egg /cheese mixture
  6. Spoon into the soufflé dish and bake for 25 – 30 mins.
  7. SERVE immediately with a green salad.

A trick with individual soufflés is that they can be twice baked. So simply put the mixture into individual ramekins, bake as above but for about 10-12 mins. Remove from the oven, and leave until ready to serv. remove from the ramekins, and place on a baking tray right side up, sprinkle the tops with some grated parmesan and and bake again as above unto re-risen ! Cheating? Yes! But who cares!!IMG_6860


	

Sea Bass, Chinese style.

A dear Chinese friend gave a cooking class the other day, in aid of charity of course but it was a fun day.

She described her style of cooking as Home Cooking, but whatever it was, it was delicious.

There were a couple of things that really caught my eye, or rather my taste buds, Steamed Sea Bass, Stir Fried Mango Duck and a sauce, which I will call, Shiitake Mushroom Chinese Sauce. Every cook has a secret ingredient or recipe, which they refuse utterly to share with anyone, and this is Annie’s! So after a lot of google-ing and recipe testing I have finally come up with my own version of Annie’s sauce, I could be totally wrong, and only time will tell if it keeps, it has been sealed in sterilized bottles, so watch this space, and if it is successful, I will divulge.

So onto Steamed Sea Bass and I apologise to Annie for stealing her recipe.

For two people:-

  • A large Sea Bass, gutted and de-scaled
  • a large knob of ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • a bunch spring onions , sliced lengthwise ( about 5 cm)
  • 2 Tablespoons Low salt Soy Sauce
  • 1 Cup Vegetable oil
  • Bunch of fresh coriander chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil

Now Annie, used a steam pan to cook her fish, in fact any pan can be used, and made into a steamer, simply by placing some kind of rack into the bottom of a saucepan and make sure that the boiling water keeps below the rack. A bit complicated? Well, an easier way is to use the dishwasher, Annie steamed her fish for 35 Minutes or so, and I steamed my fish on the lowest WASH ( apart from the rinse programme) for an hour. Of course my fish was completely sealed.

Wash the fish and pat dry, ( assuming you have had it gutted and de-scaled by the fishmonger), Slash the fish and insert some of the ginger, the spring onions and some of the chopped coriander. Pour on some drops of the sesame oil, and wrap in aluminium foil, or if using the dishwasher method, seal in a polythene bag ( I have a vacuum sealer, but a zip lock bag will work well, but I would double bag it)

Steam for about 35 mins in a steam pan, or as I say, my shortest programme with the dishwasher is about an hour, and it works really well.

Just before the fish is ready, heat some vegetable oil, , place the fish onto a serving dish and pour over some of the hot oil and garnish with ginger, coriander and onions. Pour over a little soy sauce and/or sesame oil.

Of course some people do not like eating fish on the bone, so a variation of this would be to have sea bass filets, and put some of the ginger, onions and coriander in-between the filets as a form of stuffing and cook in the same way.

The next thing that Annie did was to cook Duck with Mango, again a fast dinner, but a visual and tasty joy.

For 2 people

  • 2 duck breast
  • 3 spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 small red onion also finely sliced
  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tablespoon low salt soy sauce
  • a fresh red chilli sliced
  1. Slice the duck into 1/2″ strips
  2. mix together the red onion, some of the ginger, some of the oil and the soy sauce. Add the duck and leave to marinate, for at least 15 mins, but it is also possible to leave it overnight ( as I did almost by default).
  3. Heat some oil in a wok or deep pan along with some salt and pepper. Add the duck and cook for about 5 mins. Add the rest of the ingredients , leaving the mango to the end, so as not to over cook it.

This might be the traditional Chinese method, but the downside is that Duck has a fatty breast, which of course imparts flavour, but some people might object to the relatively raw fat ( himself and Willowy brunette for starters) , so I adapted the method slightly. I grilled the duck fat side down, after marinating,

then added to the wok as above.

And lastly, I am always fascinated by what I find in Supermarkets, especially when I am not in the UK.

My father once told me that his all time favourite as a boy was being able to afford a can of condensed milk and eating it all straight out of the can. It would seem that little has changed since then, as I found this in a french Supermarket recently. Pocket size, just incase you get a little peckish! Willowy Brunette ( She’s a Dentist will not be recommending that to anyone soon!)img_1389

Accentuate the positive!

Well so far we are only at a rate of 50% positive, which means of course 50 % negative!

Each year after our stay in our mountain home, where we do not eat out very often, given the sameness of the local cuisine ( ham, cheese, potatoes in many disguises)  we choose a hotel  which is 6-8 hours drive, which has a good restaurant, preferably one with a Michelin Star, nearby. The first year we tried this, we ate in a Michelin star restaurant in Reims, the home of champagne. The restaurant was good, the hotel not so good! The following year in wanting to avoid Calais because of the migrant crisis there, we stopped on St. Omer. The town faded and sad, the hotel, basic but new and clean, And with secure parking. But the restaurant!  Upon inspection on arrival, we were rather dismayed, but a surprise was in store, every table was taken, the linen, clean and crisp, the service perfect as was the food!

Last year we detoured to Colombey Les Deux Eglises, the spiritual home of Charles de Gaulle, a quaint, very touristy town, accommodation quaint but the restaurant a big disappointment. Although it holds a Michelin star, in my mind not warranted. The food, faddish ( serving a piece of steak on a huge beach pebble, impossible to eat) and the service decidedly not up to scratch, when himself left the table with napkin duly dumped, it was reassigned to a new duping ground ( in the middle of the table, whilst the next course was served, minus himself being at the table. Next, his red wine had a fly in it, which was removed, wine discarded but not replaced!!

So here we were again, it is August and despite it being the height of the holiday season, many of the good restaurants and hotels are closed, After all it is August and France shuts down for August! I finally settled on Le Touquet Paris Plage, about an hours drive from “Le Tunnel sous la Manche ” ( the channel tunnel to you and me) Perfect? No! The chosen restaurant was full, so plan b came into force. The restaurant that was recommended ( a bit of, You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, springs to mind) was Les Cimaises, in Hotel Le Westminster, part of the Barrière group, An expensive hotel for a quick overnight stay! And on top of that just in case you abscond, they automatically add an extra €200 to the deposit Credit card!! Umm !!!

As it was a quick overnight stop, we did not see too much of Le Touquet, but it looks a really nice town, not at all Margate more like Padstow. That is being unfair to Margate, memories of a former life, but really nice tree-lined avenues and lovely looking  thatched houses, must go back I have said to myself, but not to the Le Westminster. Apart from the price, the bar was so old-fashioned ( and empty), dark and gloomy, the restaurant unsatisfactory and the rooms? well the rooms, spacious enough, clean and bright, comfortable, but the bathroom, well, the shower one could kill oneself, in getting in and out of the bath, the hairdryer, on of those hot air tubes, attached high up on the wall, and the Bidet??? to use it, if you must, shove a table halfway around the room, to get to it!

So, onto our “Gourmet” dinner. The our amazement the restaurant was full ( lucky us we had reserved), and very noisy. Uncle Tom Cobley and all were there, along with screaming kids, and snotty nosed geriatrics ( not us you understand) but one of whom was in my direct vision, who used his napkin constantly to wipe his nose!!

We soon discovered why the restaurant was so popular, a Buffet, !! every Friday but maybe on other days as well, and even though I did not even look at the buffet, I knew at once, that there would be a few choice items and then the rest would be fillers, in the form of salads and starch. Sure enough, there was the constant flow of diners marching up and down to the buffet, returning with their plates laden sky-high, half of which would be then left on their plates!

So we ate a la carte, the menu was fine, not very imaginative but there were two things on it that I really wanted to try. The first, was something I had never eaten before, L’Os à Moelle Rôti, ( Roasted Marrow Bone) and the second something that I like,

Riz de Veau ( Veal Sweetbreads).IMG_8742

The roasted marrow bone was a revelation, tow large pieces of bone was perhaps a little too much, but was in fact very tasty. The Riz de veau on the other hand was decidedly odd, served with some rather dry macaroni ( I never eat macaroni) and some melted Mozarella, the Riz de veau alone were nice though, but forget about the other bits! We skipped dessert, decamped to the bar, which is when we discovered it to be really rather dull!

The final insult for our little jaunt in Le Touquet, was the morning Tea. Given the fact that they charge a Caution, in case we abscond, the morning tea cups, were paper!!IMG_5589However on my return to the UK, I visited my local Waitrose, only to find that they had Marrow Bones cut lengthwise! Whole foods often has Marrow bones, but cut across so to make Osso Buco.

Needlessly to say I just had to buy them and headed home to try for myself. Easy it is. According to Fergus Henderson, in his book The Complete Nose to Tail Victorians would serve Onion Soup and Bone Marrow  Toast to sickly children, to make them grow big and strong.

All that is needed to make Marrow Bone toast, are the bones, and a baquette cut in half lengthwise, rubbed with some olive oil, toasted and sprinkled with some Fleur du Sel. Simply roast the bIMG_9564ones, marrow side up in a fairly hot oven until the marrow is soft and brown. Serve with the toast and a spoon to scoop out the marrow. Yummy !!

Le Bonheur est Simple

I have often said that mountain food comprises four or five ingredients served in any number of variations. Often I am very dismissive of this type of food, Boring says I But sometimes, just sometimes, it beats any Invention test !

Today we wandered down to the local supermarché, not my favourite place in the world, but for someone who actually likes grocery shopping, it is purgatory, however, it is not Pooperama, of Mexico City fame!  It is a small supermarket, which actually sells almost everything, motor oil, electric small appliances, underwear, kids clothes , it is quiet amazing ! However the main objective, the food, to my mind needs HELP! Strawberries, or raspberries which go Off in a day, or Rocket likewise and on a Sunday morning they are out of bread ( actually we are lucky that they are even open on a Sunday morning!)

So today, as it was seriously wet here in the Haute Savoie, all the world and his wife were shopping ( well what else to do on a wet day in the mountains). We had our list and little Sam had his cart and helped, no melt down in the sunglasses section today ( thank goodness). However himself and I could not decided on what to have for dinner. We almost forsook my rule of ‘ I have food in the freezer, we need to use that ! We looked at the fish,  tired looking specimens, and now they have a rope around, a barrier, just in case you get too close and smell that which  has seen better days! Last year eldest daughter noticed that there is a section of Marked Downs, umm she said do they really think anyone will buy that ? Rather green looking Salmon that had very much better days,but hey it was – 25% , still not give away though !

So the neighbourhood kids played all day and the lovely Carolyn, fed them all, except young Sam who decided that Pasta was not his thing ( for today at least), so it was just himself and me, what to have. Well the obvious was of course, open a bottle! The most recent report is that wine staves off dementia ! So more wine please !!

The invention test is ” Open the refrigerator and make dinner with some of the contents” so our dinner was a Brie that was so ripe, it was about to run out of the door, assorted Saucissons bought at the market in Chamonix last Saturday, French bread left over from Breakfast, potatoes, steamed in the microwave and some Parma ham. And so it was, the Brie was put into a dish and put into the oven, along with the bread to crisp, the potatoes put into the microwave, the saucisson sliced and hey viola dinner was served !

On another note, I always find it very interesting what I find in supermarkets. Last year it was butter with chocolate chips in, and today, it was pocket size condensed milk ( just in case you need a sugar rush whilst out and about.)

The kids got into a Mess! Eton Mess part two

Here in the French Alps, it is like a time warp. The neighbourhood, at least in summer come out into the streets, and chat ( where do we do that in London? In the elevator maybe) but more than that the kids of all ages come out to play, wandering from one house to another, as their fancy takes them. And when I say kids they currently range in age from 2 1/2 to 13!  A big age gap but it does not seem to matter. French, Swiss, French/Irish, and my ex Mexicans! It doesn’t matter that they might not have seen each other for 6 , 9 or 12 months, they continue where they left off, a little older, a few more social skills but really just the same.

So, we are here with three of them ( the ex Mexicans), yesterday, there were 8 kids here and what do kids do, have a water fight of course! The girls said they won, and that is because they recruited young Sam to be on their team, and he is pretty mean with a water gun! Don’t get in his way, you will get wet !

The next adventure was making Slush Puppies, or Snow cones. A very American thing but oh so much fun and just think of those E numbers!! I bought a slush puppy machine, basically and electrified ice shaver, a bunch of paper cones and special flat ended straws ( easier to slurp up the ice) and three different syrups to flavour, Pink Bubblegum, ( sounds disgusting) , Red Strawberry and Blue Raspberry. Slush puppies made and Slurped to everyone’s enjoyment!

And so, onto today, today was the turn of the Eton Mess. As written about in the last blog, simple as can be. Sophia, the eldest child had made Meringues with her dad in the trade way, but was she surprised by this method, so much so, that she zoomed across the street and promptly made some more, which her grandad in particular really liked. Her Dad on the other hand sent me a text in the middle of the night about the sticky fingers everywhere! What else does he expect !

The only difference to my last comment on Eton Mess, is we used more icing sugar, and I assume that this was because I used larger eggs! Just remember the mixture must be stiff enough to roll into balls about the size of table tennis balls! Sophia commented that one of her subsequent meringues was on the large side( she admitted to making her balls on the large side!)

So get cooking with the kids, from 2- 15 they will love the instantaneous of this recipe! Don’t worry about the sugar, more veggies tomorrow !

What a Mess! Eton Mess that is !

Who doesn’t like Eton Mess?, A carefully constructed then deconstructed mess.
According to Wikipedia, it is a traditional English dessert, made with Merinques, Strawberries and whipped cream. It was first mentioned in print in 1893 and is believed to have originated at Eton College, Berkshire, although Lancing College in West Sussex also serve something similar ( surprisingly called Lancing Mess ) and is made with bananas.
It is a surprisingly simple to make and even those of you who think that maybe making meringues, requires a great deal of expertise, time and patience, will be suprised at how easy it is.
Making meringues in the Microwave oven is the way forward, it take just 90seconds to make three of them ! Yes, just 90 seconds., The end result is something that many chefs can only dream of. They are light and fluffy, very breakable, so absolutely suitable for an Eton Mess.
To make these meringues, all you need is 150 grams icing sugar( powdered sugar) and one lightly beaten egg white.
Add the icing sugar to the egg white and mix ( easiest with you hands) until you have a thick stiff mixture. Then take a small amount and roll it until it resembles a ball the size of a golf ball. Place it on a plate, either one which is covered with Rice Paper ( this is edible, but no idea where to buy it these days) or place on a silicone mat. Bake three at a time , in a microwave oven, on high for 90 seconds, and be amazed at your end result.

So all you need to do now, is to whip some cream ( there is a German product from Dr. Oetker called Klop Fix not sure what it contains, but it makes cream stay very stiff once whipped, so useful here) , crush the meringues, add some traditionally strawberries, (but weirdly my French supermarket did not have strawberries, even though it is summer) or raspberries and there you go, an instant dessert!

Alternatively of course the meringues can be sandwiched together with raspberry jam and cream, makes for messy eating of course but who cares! Another instant , well almost instant dessert/ confiture is Microwave Lemon curd. Never made Jam or Lemon curd, then try this. It does not keep for long but makes about three jars, must be kept in the refrigerator until used, but also freezes well!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup granulated sugar
  2. 3 eggs (yolks and whites)
  3. 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
  4. zest of 3 lemons
  5. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

In a large microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and melted butter.

Cook in the microwave on full power for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute. This process will take about 3-5 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from the microwave, beat and pour into a sterile jar.

Once the curd has cooled to room temperature, cover it with a lid and store it in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks. The curd will thicken as it cools.

This great for toppings on yoghurt, vanilla ice cream becomes something much more and of course more or less an instant lemon tart when poured into a ready made pastry and topped with some slices of lemon and popped under the grill! Or uses to sandwich two meringues together.

All of this is easy peasy, I think I will get Miss Tess to try it next week when my  now ex Mexicans come to stay!

Off to Nottingham

Recently I had a birthday and so himself decided we should go somewhere really nice and extra special. And so it was that we found ourselves on the M 1, heading to Nottingham. Actually I have to admit, that I know noting about Nottingham. I know it has several national sporting centres, one for Watersports, one for Ice events, a national cricket venue, plus two football teams one of which is one of the oldest in the country. Of course it is famous for Robin Hood, his merry band of robbers, Nasty King John and the evil Sheriff and of course Sherwood Forest. Also home to Lord Byron and D.H. Lawrence.

But it is for none of those reasons that we headed up the overcrowded M1 motorway. We have been there once before, when himself decided I needed some more food influence in my life and he gave me ( all by myself) a morning in the kitchen with the chefs, at a 2 Michelin Star restaurant, which happens to be in Nottingham.

The restaurant in question is called Sat Bains, after the chef/owner Satwant Bains, who was born in Derby to Sikh parents, he once worked as a young chef for Raymond Blanc, worked in France, won several wards, became head Chef at Hotel des Clos, which he relaunched as RSB, Restaurant Sat Bains, a restaurant with rooms.

There are only 8 rooms, the restaurant appears to be an old farmhouse in a very unpreposing  location, underneath pylons and cables, on the edge of a light industrial estate, obviously the farm house was there before the estate.

All of the rooms are very different, and there are 7 of them, although they are numbered 1-8 ! And it would appear that they are very popular, as himself went to book several weeks in advance only to find that room 8 was the only one available. I have to add here, that they are only available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Depending on your choice of room, there are different packages available, some with wine included, others not and a choice of a 7 course dinner or a ten course dinner. Room 8 came with a ten course! And breakfast is included!!

The 10 course tasting menu, came with an optional 11th. This I believe, was some sort of special poached /sous -vide egg, which listening in on a neighbours conversation, is the dish that launched Sat into the national psych!! However, not living in the UK at that time, we were more than happy to settle for the 10 courses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 menu

As you can see from the phtograph of the menu, the courses are more or less divided between, Salt, Sweet Sour, Bitter and Umami.

Umami is the fifth taste and is savoury.It is one of the five basic tastes (along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness). according to   The Umami Information Center the following foods are rich in naturally occuring glutamate ( think Chinese where it is added).

All shell fish, Scallops, Clams, Oysters, Lobster etc.

Beef, think Beef Jerky, think Hamburger, especially one with added cheese or bacon

All cheese, but especially Parmesan.

Pork but especially Bacon.

Chicken soup, as the bones are full of Umani.

Carrots, Tomatoes, Tomato paste, Lasagne, French Fries, Potato Chips, Soy, Soy Sauce, Mushrooms, the list goes on. And don’t forget, Green tea, why not go for Haagen Dazs Green Tea Ice Cream ???