Archive | November, 2012

Recipe of the day: Moules au Cidre, Mussels cooked in Cider

18 Nov

 Moules au Cidre, Mussels cooked in Cider  is my take on the French classic  moules marinieres ,using cider instead of wine and my magic little touch fennel.

Mussel tips and info

COOKING TIPS: Mussels are most often steamed open over a small amount of flavoured liquid, as in Moules marinière, although they can also be oven roasted and are particularly good cooked ‘en papillote’ (in a bag). Wine, stock, beer and cider are all great for cooking mussels, but take care not to add salt to the liquid as mussel juice can be very salty If a mussel is unopened after cooking , this indicates that it was already dead. You will probably notice the colour of the meat varies between beige and orange. This is an indication of sex – beige for male and orange for female; there is no difference in flavour.  A great way to eat is by pullingl the meat from one shell and then use that shell as a pincer to remove meat from the rest. Serve simply with crusty bread – lovely!

Buying the best

Mussels in the shell are sold either alive or pre-cooked. They’re available out of the shell as ‘mussel meat’, or brined or pickled in cans. For cooking, you really want live mussels in the shell. Farmed mussels are a particularly good buy as they are often more appealing to look at and require a lot less scrubbing under the tap to remove barnacles. Live mussels are often sold pre-weighed in a net bag, and should be kept cool on the way home.

Storing live mussels

Don’t leave them wrapped in a plastic bag (they can suffocate), or soaking in water, as chemicals and the lack of salinity (salt) can also kill them. Instead, keep them in a bowl, lightly covered with damp kitchen paper, in the bottom of the fridge – not too cold or they won’t last as long. They can then last up to five days – although you should expect to lose quite a few over this length of time, so it’s best to eat them on the day of purchase.


Serves 4, or if you’re really greedy like me serves 2.

• olive oil

• Small knob butter

• 2kg mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed clean (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)

• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

• 150ml good-quality cider

• 2 tablespoons crème fraîche

• 4 banana shallots, finely sliced

• 1 small fennel bulb , finely sliced

• 2 bay leaves

• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped

• 1 chili finely sliced and de-seeded (this is optional don’t add if you don’t want )


1. Raw mussels MUST be alive when you cook them, so careful preparation is key. Wash them under cold running water until it runs clear, and scrub if necessary. Pull the ‘beard’ away from each individual mussel – this is the byssus thread, a protein the mussel ‘spins’ so it can attach itself to rock or rope. Drain and then check; if the shell is tightly shut, this is a good indication that it’s alive. If the mussel is open, tap it sharply for a few seconds – if it is alive, it will close. Discard any that appear to be dead as they can decompose very rapidly, and eating one that you aren’t sure of is not worth the risk. Don’t check them too far in advance; cook within a few minutes to be on the safe side.

2. Heat the butter and oil in a pan large enough to easily fit the mussels, Throw in the shallots ,fennel, garlic bay leaves, then cook for 3-5 min`s until softened.

Whack the heat up to maximum pour in the cider and bring to the boil, then tip in the mussels and place a lid on the pan.give it a good shake, then cook the mussels for 3-5 min`s, shaking the pan occasionally, until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that haven’t.

3. stir in the crème fraîche, add the chili (if desired) and  scatter the parsley all over. scoop the mussels into bowls. Serve with hunks of my crusty parmesan and sun-dried tomato bread for mopping up the sauce.






Still not sure or scared about cooking mussels, I could come and cook them for you and your family.




For info mail or phone: 0642297107

The Humble Potato; and my wonderful Roasted Potatoes

7 Nov

The humble potato

The Potato is one of the staple foods of modern Western Civilization. It can be classified as both a starch and a vegetable. From its roots in the Andes Mountains to its domination of the farms of Idaho, the potato has been both a sustaining force and a culinary delight. The potato continues to grow in popularity, especially on the Asian continent.

In the ancient ruins of Peru and Chile, archaeologists have found potato remains that date back to 500 B.C. The Incas grew and ate them and also worshipped them. They even buried potatoes with their dead, they stashed potatoes in concealed bins for use in case of war or famine, they dried them, and carried them on long journeys to eat on the way (dried or soaked in stew). Ancient Inca potatoes had dark purplish skins and yellow flesh. The Incas called the potato “papas,” as they do today

Western man did not come in contact with the potato until as late as 1537 when the Conquistadors tramped through Peru. And it was even later, about 1570, that the first potato made its way across the Atlantic to make a start on the continent of Europe.

Though the tuber was productive and hardy, the Spanish put it to very limited use. In the Spanish Colonies potatoes were considered food for the underclasses; when brought to the Old World they would be used primarily to feed hospital inmates.

Europe would wait until the 1780’s before the potato gained prominence anywhere. About 1780 the people of Ireland adopted the rugged food crop. The primary reason for its acceptance in Ireland was its ability to produce abundant, nutritious food. Unlike any other major crop, potatoes contain most of the vitamins needed for sustenance.

When potato plants bloom, they send up five-lobed flowers that spangle fields like fat purple stars. By some accounts, Marie Antoinette liked the blossoms so much that she put them in her hair. Her husband, Louis XVI, put one in his buttonhole, inspiring a brief vogue in which the French aristocracy swanned around with potato plants on their clothes. The flowers were part of an attempt to persuade French farmers to plant and French diners to eat this strange new species.

The Irish Potato Famine:  The “Great Famine” or also called the “Great Starvation” in Ireland was caused because the potato crop became diseased. At the height of the famine (around 1845), at least one million people died of starvation. This famine left many poverty stricken families with no choice but to struggle for survival or emigrate out of Ireland. Towns became deserted, and all the best shops closed because store owners were forced to emigrate due to the amount of unemployment. Over one and a half million people left Ireland for North America and Australia. Over just a few years, the population of Ireland dropped by one half, from about 9 million to little more than 4 million.

Today, the potato is so common and plentiful in the Western diet that it is taken for granted. We seem to forget that the potato has only been with us for a few hundred years.

Are potatoes nutritious? Indeed! Potatoes are low in fat and calories and high in vitamin B6, C and potassium. If you serve them in the skin, they are also a good source of dietary fiber. It’s best to store potatoes in a cool dark place. Take them out of any packaging so they don’t sweat or start sprouting and if they do have the odd sprout, or green patch (this can be piousness), make sure you cut those bits out before cooking them.

Potato varieties


An Old Dutch variety, Bintje is the most popular yellow-fleshed potato variety. Small to medium sized tubers long oval shaped with pale cream/yellow skin flecked with brown spots. Cream/white flesh, firm texture, low sugar.

A Good cooking and processing potato: commonly used for chips and fries, also great in potato salads

Available all year, and having a Long shelf life providing they are kept in the dark


Small to medium sized tuber, long oval shaped with light brown/yellow rough skin with large, light brown spots, creamy yellow flesh with a firm texture after cooking, buttery flavor, excellent for cooking, especially boiling , mashing ,salads and also great for home-made gnocchi, available all year


Large, oval shaped tuber with pink/red skin and dark spots creamy yellow flesh with firm texture .Good for boiling, mashing and frying; does not discolor after cooking and available all year

Pink Eye

This variety has a creamy yellow flesh that tends to be waxy with a nutty flavor. Best for salads, boiling, steaming and baking.


Purple Congo

Also called Congo, Blue Congo and a host of other names, irregular long oval shaped tuber with very distinctive dark purple colour ,Dark purple flesh with light purple flecks, great for baking, good for boiling and mashing , has a Long storage life, available all year


Charlotte is a small, deep yellow fleshed potato with a firm texture and is often used in salads. Great for roasting, boiling, steaming or sautéing, they’re also good eaten hot or cold.

Now for my Perfect Roasted Potatoes


200g/ goose or duck fat , this give such an amazing flavor (if not available use olive or rapeseed oil)

50g/ salt

500g/ Bintje/ Nicola potatoes, cut into 6 pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 sprigs thyme

2 sprigs rosemary

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Preparation method

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

2. Place the goose fat in a medium sized heavy based roasting tray and place in the oven. It is essential that you preheat the fat in the oven as the potatoes will instantly start crisping and cooking when placed in the oven. The hot fat will give a wonderful crust to the potatoes and a rich golden colour.

3. In a medium saucepan on a high heat, bring two litres of water and the salt to a boil. This may seem like a lot of salt, but you want the water to season the potatoes at this early stage.

4. Carefully add the potatoes to the water and boil over a high heat for 7-8 minutes or until the outside of the potatoes starts to flake. By boiling the potatoes fiercely you ensure that you only cook the outside surface, allowing them to be fluffed up. The easiest way to check that they have been boiled enough is to push the tip of a sharp knife in to them; the tip should only go in 5mm.

5. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow to stand for two minutes. Shake the colander gently for one minute or until the outside of the potato pieces are ruffled and slightly fluffy, creating hundreds of little nooks and ridges that will crisp when placed in the hot fat, Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. Carefully take the roasting tray with goose fat out of the oven and using a spoon with a long handle or a pair of tongs, place the potatoes in to the hot fat , add the thyme, rosemary and garlic. Shake the tray to ensure that the potatoes are in an even layer.

7. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, turning the potatoes over half way through.

8. Scoop the potatoes into a warm serving dish and serve alongside dish of your choice , I like to serve mine with a delicious garlic, rosemary and anchovy encrusted  roast shoulder of lamb.

Thai food history, and of course my Thai Curry

3 Nov

Until 1939, the country we call Thailand was known as Siam. It was the only Southeast Asian country never colonized by the West. This helped Thailand to maintain its own special cuisine (cooking style). However, that cuisine had already been influenced by Thailand’s Asian neighbors. Outside influences such as Chinese cooking methods, IE, the introduction of frying, be it stir frying or deep frying have become what is now probably Thailand’s favorite cooking method, especially stir frying and the use of the Wok.

From nearby India came not only the Buddhist religion, but also spicy seasonings such as cumin, cardamom, and coriander, as well as curry dishes. The Malays, to the south, further shared seasonings, as well as their love of coconuts and the satay.

From the 16th and 17th centuries onward, when the powerful European trading nations began establishing their trading routes between Europe and South East Asia the Thais were ideally placed to benefit from the introduction of some more ingredients which would contribute further to the development and history of Thai food. One such introduction is one which we would be forgiven for thinking as a very Thai commodity, “The Chili ” was actually introduced by Portuguese Missionaries who brought them over from South America in the 1600’s.

Overpowering pure spices were toned down and enhanced by fresh herbs such as lemon grass and galangal. Eventually, fewer and less spices were used in Thai curries, while the use of fresh herbs increased. It is generally acknowledged that Thai curries burn intensely, but briefly, whereas other curries, with strong spices, burn for longer periods. A typical Thai meal includes four main seasonings: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy, most Thai dishes are not considered satisfying unless they combine all four tastes. Instead of serving dishes in courses, a Thai meal is served all at once, permitting diners to enjoy complementary combinations of different tasters.

A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. A spiced salad may replace the curry dish. The soup can also be spicy, but the curry should be replaced by a non-spiced item. There must be harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the entire meal.

Green curry and red curry are easily the most popular curries, utilizing chili peppers, garlic, lemon grass, and coconut milk, among other essential herbs and spices. Green curry is made with fresh, young green chili’s, and is significantly hotter than other curries.

 Red curry is made with bigger red chili’s, which are not as hot as their green counterpart, but still packing significant heat. Green curry tends to lean toward a sweeter flavor, while red explores the savory side.

Yellow curry is highly aromatic and brightly colored due to roasted spices and an infusion of turmeric, and is typically paired with fish or poultry. The curry has a rich, bold taste, sweet with subtle hints of spices, and is effectively hot without being overpowering. Yellow curry hails from southern Thailand and is usually made with the addition of yellow peppers.

Masaman curry is by far the sweetest of all the curries, and is an excellent pairing with shrimp or chicken. A rich authentic flavor, usually with hints of tangy tamarind, this mildly hot curry is actually Indian-influenced, and is a popular favorite. A good introduction to curry if you are worried about trying something overly hot.

Panang Curry shares many of the same ingredients and is very similar in flavor to Red Curry, but for a slightly sweeter taste, and is slightly less fiery on the tongue. It is extremely flavorful when made with vegetarian dishes or stir-fries

My authentic red curry is made using chicken and the freshest of herbs, but for something more luxurious try it with “Tiger Prawns”,

 For info, ordering and pricing mail; or call 0642297107

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