24 September 2015

Ceps, parmesan and rocket

Clean and cut the mushrooms, shave the cheese, wash the salad. Serve with a good olive oil, some lemon juice and pepper. How simple can it be...

12 August 2015

Carpaccio of watermelon

I used a 10cm serving ring to cut out round segments from the melon and then sliced them with the mandoline. Made a dressing from walnut oil, crême of balsamic and olive oil. Served with blue cheese and chives

27 July 2015

Cold melon soup

This one is very simple folks. 
Cut a nice, ripe melon in 4 quarters. One to make the cute balls, the flesh of the rest to be pureed with the juice of one orange and (the secret)! a splash of pastis. 
Prepare well in advance so you have plenty of time to chill in the fridge. Serve with some cured ham. Or not...

18 July 2015

Bruschetta, broadbeans, goats cheese

Delicious bite on a hot summer night.
Use a garlic press and squeeze 1 clove into some olive oil. Soften on a low heat.
Brush the oil over the bread.
Fry the bread in a dry pan. Mix the fresh peas and beans with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and chopped mint.
Crumble the goat's cheese.
Serve as shown

13 July 2015

Beetroot Carpaccio

Recently we had lunch at our friends Jappe and Susanna and when she served this I couldn't wait till the beetroots in my garden were ready. Today some of them were big enough, so I boiled them for 45 minutes. While they were cooling I whipped up a dressing with champagne vinegar, honey, walnut oil, olive oil and salt&pepper. Finely sliced a spring onion. Peeled the beetroots under the tap with my thumbs and sliced them very thinly with the mandoline. I arranged them in a circle on a plate. Then put the onion, goat cheese and almond slivers over it and finally the dressing.

8 July 2015

American Cobb Salad

 A truly fabulous, sunny-looking salad. From Simon Hopkinson in The Guardian
For the blue cheese dressing
30g roquefort
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Juice of ½ lemon 
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
150ml olive oil
2 tbsp soured cream
2-3 tbsp warm water (optional)
For the salad
Inner leaves from 3-4 round lettuces
1 avocado, peeled and diced
2 large handfuls picked watercress
3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
8 slices pancetta, grilled until crisp
40g roquefort
1 tbsp snipped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Put all the dressing ingredients bar the water in a food processor and whizz smooth. If the dressing is too thick for you – I prefer it pourable – loosen with a little water. Put to one side. Arrange the lettuce on a dish and scatter the avocado, watercress, eggs, tomatoes and pancetta over it. Spoon over the dressing, crumble the cheese on top and sprinkle with chives. Trickle over a little oil, to give the salad a glossy look, and grind on lots of pepper. Serve without delay.

28 June 2015

Download my new book from any Amazon

'A Year in Provence meets Hotel Babylon' (Daily Mail)

Content: House-hunting in Gascony (SW France) is not for the fainthearted as Peter (48) and Jan (45) discover. But they find their dream house. Starting its renovation they not only find an old grenade, but a bunch of secret papers as well. They are shocked being told about a murder in the village, threatened by snakes and other vermin and a mysterious derelict neighbouring farm seems to be booby-trapped, but why? 

Jan wants to convert the house into a small luxury hotel but all Peter wants is a holiday home. Over time Peter’s resistance is eroded. What a woman wants…The house back home is sold, a flat found. They are now in France most of the time. The hotel is in business. Jan has interviewed Yvette, a local girl to help her with the rooms. 

Delayed guests have arrived. Honeymooners. A ghost from the past drops in, Hugo Sanchez, claiming the house is his. Jan kicks out the first guests. New guests arrive, two househunting couples. The males starting a pissing contest. Peter gets his first Ferrari. A French neighbour explains why the British are strange people and that cave people were the first foreigners who came house hunting in France, 25.000 BC. 
Still in bed Peter finally meets Yvette, the new chambermaid. Is the baker’s wife unfaithful? How do the French call gay men? Yvette teaches Peter new techniques…about French bread. Dave, an Englishman pops in to pick Peter’s builders brains. 

Four German guests arrive with quite unusual tastes. Peter makes a shocking discovery in their bedroom. What is Yvette doing in a swingers club? Hugo Sanchez is seen again in the area, but what is he up to? 
Peter misjudges his young American guests. A dog selects a new master. A letter arrives from Spain from the man who claims he is the owner of the house. They learn the most popular word in Ireland. 

A Belgian guest has an unpleasant wake up call. Terrorists are seen in the area. New neighbour Dave dies. Peter checks out a potential terrorists’ lair. A truly international and eventful day in a small Gascon hotel. 
Guests have their car stolen. Dave’s bereaved brother arrives. Pictures of Jan’s interior are taken for Elle Decoration. A fireplace has travelled from Gascony to Amsterdam. and back. New guests are not what they were expected to be. 
Scantily clad models pose around the pool for a glossy magazine photoshoot, soon joined by a naked Yvette. 

Hugo Sanchez takes Peter on his Nazi treasure hunt, to the local graveyard! Then Peter’s biggest secret is revealed. A real Hollywood actress and her baby-faced lover arrive. They are desperate to find out the identity of the famous singer/songwriter is who keeps to his room. Another guest makes a confession that ends the treasure hunt. 

Peter is invited to cook at a Hollywood wedding. A guest smells someone smoking pot and wants some himself. Jan plans a party. A bachelor tells Peter of a very un-orthodox way to find his bride. Somebody gets arrested by the Gendarmerie. Another one marries the wrong bride. An old colleague and his wife stop over. A lone guest discovers an interesting notebook in the library. A hare catches a dog. Eight expats who come for lunch are having severe problems. The party is a huge success but the next day Peter has a total blackout. Is Yvette getting married? 

Warning: although I paid professionals UK editors I'm told the book still has grammatical errors. At the moment corrections are being made. The result will be ready to download on August 5. 

Then download here (or any other Amazon site) to read on your tablet, PC, phone or Kindle:


9 May 2015

Thai beef salad

Salad: Haricots verts, sugar snaps, red onion, red pepper, cucumber and coriander.
Dressing: juice from 1 lime (or 1/2 lemon), 1 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp soy sauce,
1 garlic clove.
That's all folks...

6 April 2015

Basque squid stew

As Rick Stein wrote when I first saw this recipe, the original version comes from Basque fishermen. After catching some nice squid they used what they had on board to cook it: a can of tomatoes, some wine and onions. I started with cleaning 2 squid, then cut them into rings and the tentacles in bits and fried that in some oil. In the meantime finely cut 4 garlic cloves and 2 onions, one of them red. Fried them with the squid. Added a can of tomatoes, a glass of red wine and (because it was just ready) a glass of chic hen stock. While it simmered I went into the garden for some rosemary and thyme and added lots of white pepper as well. Found a green paprika, sliced it and put it in. Simmered the lot for 2 hours. Then I came across a small fennel bulb and a stalk of celery. Sliced the fennel with the mandoline very thinly and cut the celery. In they went for just a minute to have a crispy bite. Some leftover shrimps were used for decoration.

15 March 2015

Scallops, black pudding, beure blanc

Start with the sauce. Cut a shallot finely and sweat it in some butter, till soft. Add a small glass of Noilly Prat and reduce till almost evaporated. Do the same with half a glass of Madeira. Sieve,then add a glass of cream and boil till you've a thickish sauce. Whisk in some cubes of ice cold butter till satisfied. Taste to see if salt and pepper are necessary.
Then slice the blood pudding and fry. Do the same with the scallops in a lightly oiled pan. 25 sec on each side. I served them on some fresh leafs of spinach and decorated with matchsticks of beetroot. For color some sea weed on top, to make the scallops feel at home

22 February 2015

Panfried red mullet, fennel and crab mayo

I found these beautiful Gien plates this morning, asking for seafood. Sardines! Out of season, so I scoured the freezer (red mullet!) and the larder (a fennel bulb!) and remembered a recipe from ateliersdeschefs.co.uk and looked it up. Found the required tin of crab meat and started. Mixed the crab with some mayo and parsley and put it in the fridge. Then made the sauce with lemon juice and olive oil. A matter of tasting, not too oily, not to acid.  Still not satisfied I reduced some orange juice till sirupy, let it cool and added that. Perfect.
Then used the mandoline to slice a funnel bulb wafer thin. Marinated the fennel in some of the sauce.
Added chopped chives to the rest of the sauce and panfried the mullet in a slightly oiled pan.
Served as shown. Looking good and simple!

19 February 2015

Crunchy papardelle.

Only 12 ingredients, but yes, Ottolenghi again from the Guardian and it was delicious!
250g tender stem or sprouting broccoli,250g button mushrooms, halved
50ml olive oil, 100ml white wine, 1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, chopped
½ tsp sugar, 150ml double cream, Grated zest of 1 lemon,1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp chopped parsley, 20g Panko* breadcrumbs, or another, 250g pappardelle
Clear any leaves from the broccoli and cut into 4cm-long pieces (stalks and florets). If the stalks are thick, cut along the centre. Blanch in boiling salted water for two minutes and drain.
In a large saucepan, sauté the mushrooms in the hot oil until they start taking on colour. Add the wine, bayleaf, thyme and sugar, reduce to a third, then add the cream. Season to taste and keep warm.
Mix together the lemon zest, garlic and parsley. In a hot pan, toast the breadcrumbs until golden, stirring occasionally.
Cook the pappardelle in salted water. When just ready, add the broccoli to the cream sauce to reheat. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce and half the parsley mix. To serve, mix the rest of the parsley with the breadcrumbs and garnish generously.
* Japanese Panko IS better!

17 February 2015

Caramellised fennel

Ottolenghi today! Vegetarian! Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First, cut off the leafy fronds, keeping a bit aside for the garnish. Next, slice off the end of the root and remove the tough outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthwise into 1/2 in. thick slices.
Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When the butter starts to foam, add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take a few minutes. Using tongs, turn the slices over and cook for another few minutes. Remove from the pan, add a bit more olive oil and butter if needed and repeat the process with the remaining raw fennel.
Once all the fennel is done and removed from the pan, reduce the heat, then add the sugar, fennel seeds, and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, adding a little more oil or butter if needed, until the sugar is dissolved, then return all the fennel to the pan and caramelize them gently. Once the fennel is caramelized, coated with sauce and tender (say 5 minutes?), turn off the heat and add the garlic. Stir again to incorporate it.
To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the dill and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate, or serve on toast as an appetizer (you may want to cut them into slightly smaller pieces). Dot with spoonfuls of goat’s cheese and garnish with fennel fronds.
About it being advertised as vegetarian. It is, but if you take a closer look at the picture you can see that we couldn't resist adding a nice juicy leg of chicken. Sorry

Vegetarian tempura

Difficult part: buy Japanese tempura flour. Follow instructions (lumpy is GOOD!) to make the batter.
Cut beetroot, celery stick, carrot, paprika into bite sizes. Use the leaves of the celery too. Soooo nice and crispy!
Dip veggies in the batter and deep fry. Eat with chopsticks and soy sauce.

Or a bit less vegetarian, with juicy shrimps:

8 February 2015

Escargots, mushrooms

The freezer still had half a packet of escargots in their shells, with garlic butter. But I still had some mushrooms I had to use before they would go off. So this was my idea for a nice starter. As the garlic butter in the shells would not be enough for dipping enough crunchy bread in it I started with cutting half a shallot very finely and did the same with 3 cloves of garlic, which I sweated in 50 gr of salted butter. In the meantime I started on the last of the parsley, cut it till I had about 4 tbsps. Mixed it with the garlic/shallot butter, off the heat. Then took out the defrosted snails from their shells with a toothpick, incl the garlic butter and added them to my mixture.
Cleaned the mushrooms and took out the stems and fried the hoods.
Then heated up the snails and hoisted them into the upturned mushrooms. Added a red pepper for colour and served with fresh crusty bread. The empty shells were just decoration.

7 February 2015

Pan seared sea trout,mash and pea/feta/mint pesto

Start with the 'pesto', boil a handful of frozen peas for 7 mins, drain. Use the stick blender to blitz them with olive oil, 2 tbsp of mint leaves  and 1 garlic clove till the right consistency.  Then crumble some feta cheese and mix that in as well.

Next: boil a few potatoes.

Then sear the fish (the recipe said sea bream, but I had sea trout) in a lightly oiled pan, skin side down. When the skin is nice and crisp, turn off the heat and turn the fish. It will be done in a minute.

In the meantime crush the potatoes with a fork and add some olive oil. The recipe also asked for some spring onions, but I didn't have any, so I finely cut half a shallot and sweated that for a minute and added to the mash. `For color I added some parsley as well.

Inspiration: atelierdeschefs.co.uk

PS Don't forget, like I did,  to serve with lemon wedges!

5 February 2015

Yakatori chicken

Start (preferably a day before) with the pickled cucumber. Cut a cucumber in half and remove the ends. Then slice both halves lengthwise very thinly till you reach the seeds. Then put  a good glug of white wine vinegar and a tbsp runny honey in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat. Wait a minute or so and put in the cucumber. Mix well. Cool and keep in the fridge overnight.

Normally chicken breast are used, but I found a nice fat coquelet ( 650 grams) which is enough for 2 people and meat from the bone is always more tasty. Warmed up the oven at 230C and oiled the coquette. Put it in the oven, turned down the heat to 180C and left the oven do the work for 45 mins ( but every 15 mins basked it with some oil).

In the meantime I had enough time to make the sauce (but you can buy it readymade if you want): mixing 1/2 a cup of mirin, 3 tblsp sake, 1/4 cup of superfine sugar, 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger and 4 tbsp soy sauce.

Then boiled the rice. To give it some color and bite I sliced a shallot finely, cut a celery stick and fried them softly. When the rice was done I mixed it with the vegetables and added some parsley.

When the chicken was done I took it apart: 2 legs and the 2 breasts, removed the skin and boiled the meat another 5 mins in the yakatori sauce.

1 February 2015

Fish'n chips

We found this recipe on the web, it was posted by a guy called Marc who only allows us a link to his website. Well here you go: http://norecipes.com/recipe/fish-and-chips-recipe
Our fries however were shop bought. The sauce: 2tbsp mayo, 2tbsp creme fraiche, 1 tbsp finely chopped small gherkins, 1 tbsp finely chopped pearl onions, pepper, salt.

24 January 2015

Cod, mash, chermoula

Start with the oven at 150C. Once hot put in the cherry tomatoes. Then peel and boil the potatoes for the mash and then prepare the North African chemoula. Dry the cod with kitchen paper, put them in a plastic bag with some flour, shake and take them out. They only need to b lightly dusted. Finish the mash with lots of butter and olive oil. Fry the cod in about 5 mins in a lightly oiled pan. Serve as shown.
Chermoula: there are many recipes, but we prefer the one that Amanda Ursell published in the Times. Roast 1 table spoon of sesame seeds, 2 tea spoons of cumin seeds and 2 tea spoons of fennel seeds in a dry pan. Grind them in a pestle. Mix them with a bunch of fresh parsley and a bunch of fresh coriander, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of paprika powder, some orange zest and enough olive oil to make a thickish dressing with the blender.

15 January 2015

'Homemade' lasagna (2 portions for now and 14 for the freezer))

With 'homemade' we mean that this is not store-bought lasagna (that has lots of carrots and is quite sweet). Yes, we did go to the store and bought
3 red paprikas, 
140 gr grated Comté cheese, 
a 125 gr package of mixed grated Italian cheeses (Provolone piccante, Mozzarella, Pecorino and Formaggio Stagionato), 
2 (400gr) pots of Barilla Bolognaise sauce, 
2 packets of chilled ready made Béchamel sauce (66 cl in total) and 
2 packets of 'fresh' (i.e not the dried variety) lasagna sheets and 
a 400 gr tin of peeled tomatoes. 

On our way back we stopped at the market where an English butcher sells excellent chili hamburgers. They release hardly any fat and we used 6 of them instead of minced meat (750 gr).

Back home we halved the paprikas, removed the stems and seeds and grilled them under the grill till blackened. We pre-heated the oven at 200C and started slicing 4 onions, that were softened on a low heat. Then we added the contents of the 2 pots of Bolognaise sauce and the tin of tomatoes. We revved the skin from the paprikas, cut them finely and added them to the sauce, with 2 sprigs of rosemary, 6 sprigs thyme and 4 sprigs fresh oregano from the garden (homemade!) and heated the sauce on a very low heat for 20 mins.
In the meantime we turned the hamburgers into their original shape: minced meat and fried it till done and mixed the meat with the sauce. Removed the herbs!
Then we buttered a 30x36 cm baking tin and covered its bottom with (slightly overlapping) lasagna sheets. We covered them with one half of the sauce, then poured the contents of one packet of béchamel sauce over it, followed by another layer of lasagna sauce.
Then the last half of the sauce went in and the other packet of Béchamel. Finally a third layer of lasagna sheets, which were lightly covered with egg yolk. Then the grated cheeses and into the oven for 40 mins.

Sounds like a lot of work, but it isn't (half an hour) and the best thing is that after serving 2 portions you are left with enough to enjoy it on 7 more occasions!                                                                                                     Just let the rest cool, the cut portions and freeze them!

13 January 2015

Creamy chicken and wholegrain mustard and mushroom sauce

To accompany 2 leftover chicken legs we made Ottolenghi's sauce :

1 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
15g unsalted butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
Some thyme sprigs from the garden
200g mushrooms, halved
1 tsp paprikapowder
200ml chicken stock from our freezer
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
80g double cream
8 small gherkins, cut in half lengthways
Some parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Some tarragon leaves, roughly chopped (in the garden they were frozen, so we used dry ones from a pot)
Put the oil in  a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the butter, onion and thyme, and saute for five minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms, cook for eight minutes, until they take on a little colour, then add the paprika, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Stir, cook for a minute, then add the stock and mustard. Cook for five or so minutes, to thicken the sauce, stir through the cream and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes more; if the sauce needs further thickening, reduce the sauce. Off the heat, stir in the gherkins, parsley and tarragon, and serve piping hot – mashed potato or plain boiled rice would make a very happy partner, but we didn'tl.

1 January 2015

Fresh lobster

Buy lobster. Fill pan with 4 liter water, half a bottle of white wine and 1 liter chicken stock, add 2 onions (halved), thyme, rosemary, 1 diced leek, 2 laurel leaves, 2 crushed garlic cloves. salt and pepper. Bring to the boil.
Put in the lobster, head first. Boiling time: 1 min per 100 grams.
Cut in half. Serve with mayo...
Don't forget to use the leftovers to make a delicious lobster stock!