a food stylist's blog

food, photos & flea markets

The chandelier at night

One of my jobs as a food writer and stylist is being commissioned by magazine clients to write, style and shoot food features for them. Often people ask me what is actually involved in this process, so I thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes and blog a typical food shoot. Once the client has decided on what feature they want I will write the recipes, style the food and style the props whilst Ian, my husband, will photograph the feature once everything is in place.

Day one…… Food & Travel magazine ( http://www.foodandtravel.com ) has asked us to illustrate an alfresco evening dinner for 6 people.

The menu is a 4 course meal with an appetizer, a starter, main course with accompaniments and a dessert. Once developed I then test them in my kitchen to make sure they work and of course taste great.

Monthly brocante in Angouleme

Brocante stalls

Brocante stalls

The fabulous thing about France is all the local brocantes (fleamarkets) and local antique shops where I can source absolutely everything I could ever need for any type of shoot. I need to look out for some more plates, napkins and cutlery to add to my ever growing stock of props, but most of all I want to find some old matching chairs for the shoot. With this in mind I decide to try a monthly Sunday brocante in Angouleme as well as a couple of nearby shops.

So plates, cutlery and napkins are sorted, so I head off to an antique shop locally to see if I can grab those chairs and perhaps a candelabra or chandelier.

Having got everything I was looking for, its back to give the chairs a makeover, clean up the chandelier and pick out which plates, napkins and cutlery will work for the shoot. Then that’s all for day one.

Day two – As it is shoot day I’m up bright and early to start prepping the food and setting out the props ready for the evening shoot. Because it’s light until 10pm in the summer I have the whole day to cook and set the scene which is great.

FullSizeRender (20)

Courtyard setting

Ian and I have decided to shoot this feature next door at our neighbours as they have a pretty courtyard setting with a rose garden, lovely for the background of the shot. By late evening I am adding all the last minute finishing touches to the table, hanging the chandelier and lighting the candles. Then Ian’s ready to set up and shoot the opener.

Ian’s shot is perfect, we are both really happy with the scene setter. As the light is fading we will end on this beautiful note and return tomorrow evening so we can photograph the recipes in the same dusky light, to perfectly match the opener – one of the great advantages Ian and I have, working here in France.

Summer Dining

© Food & Travel magazine

Day three…… Returning to our location, it takes a little time to recreate our opener and then we are ready to shoot the 5 recipes. Once the food is plated, Ian and I check all the little details to make sure everything is in place and finally Ian can shoot the finished dishes. Here are 3 from the feature.

Seared scallops and chorizo with a tomato and vanilla dressing

Scallops and chorizo

© Food & Travel Magazine

Serves: 6

150g dried haricot beans, soaked overnight in cold water

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small leek, trimmed and finely chopped

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

grated zest and juice 1/2 lemon

50ml dry white wine

100ml single cream

150g chorizo, thinly sliced

18 large scallops

dressing

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 vanilla pod, split

1 small shallot, very finely chopped

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

salt and pepper

Drain the soaked beans and place in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1 hour until the beans are al dente. Drain well, refresh under cold water and set aside.

Make the dressing. Place all the ingredients except the basil in a bowl and stir well. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Stir in the basil.

Heat the oil and gently fry the leek, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and salt and pepper for 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Stir in the beans and add the wine. Simmer and reduce for 2 minutes until reduced slightly, then stir in the cream. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add a little lemon juice to taste. Keep warm.

Heat a heavy based frying pan fry the chorizo over a medium heat for 1 minute until golden and cooked through. Reserve and set aside. Add the scallops to the pan and sear for 1 minute each side.

Divide the haricot mixture, scallops and chorizo between each serving plate and spoon over the dressing. Garnish with basil leaves and serve at once.

Seared beef fillet with celeriac, apple and walnut salad

Seared beef whole serve

© Food & Travel Magazine

Serves: 6

1kg beef fillet

150g peeled celeriac

1 large apple

50g toasted walnut

a handful fresh parsley leaves

2 tbsp drained baby capers

anchovy dressing

1 egg yolk

10 anchovies in oil, drained and chopped

2 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

50ml extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5. Rub the beef with a little oil and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy ovenproof frying pan and sear the beef on all sides over a high heat for 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Make the dressing. Place the egg yolk, anchovies, vinegar, mustard and a little pepper in a food processor blend until completely smooth. Gradually whisk in the oil, then the cream keeping the motor running until the sauce is thickened.

Thinly pare the celeriac and cut into sticks. Cut the apples into the same size sticks and place in a bowl with the walnuts, parsley and capers.

Thinly slice the beef and place on a large platter. Arrange a little of the salad over the beef and serve drizzled with the anchovy dressing. Pass the remaining salad around the table.

Meringues with grilled peaches and Pedro Ximenez sauce

Meringues with peaches 1

© Food & Travel Magazine

Serves: 6

A sweet Spanish white wine, Pedro Ximenez has a lovely caramel raisin flavour and is a perfect addition to a toffee sauce.

3 egg whites

175g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 tsp white vinegar

50g unsalted butter

50g agave syrup* or soft brown sugar

6 small peaches, halved and stoned

100ml Pedro Ximenez

150ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 140c/275f/Gas mark 1 and draw 6 x 10 cm circles onto baking paper and place on a large baking tray. Whisk the egg whites in an electric food mixer until stiff and then gradually whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is thick. Continue to whisk for several minutes until the mixture is glossy, then whisk in the vanilla paste and vinegar.

Carefully spoon the meringue onto the 6 circles forming neat rounds and pressing a small dip in the middle of each one. Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour until meringues are set. Transfer to a wire and leave the meringues to go cold. Increase the oven temperature to 190c/375f/gas mark 5.

Heat the butter and agave syrup together in a heavy frying pan and when bubbling, add the peach halves, cut side down and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and transfer to a foil–lined baking tin and roast for 15 minutes. Leave to cool.

Return the butter mixture to the boil, stir in the Pedro Ximenez and simmer for 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Leave to cool.

To serve the meringues, warm the caramel sauce stirring until amalgamated. Place 2 peach halves onto each meringue and drizzle over the cream and the caramel sauce. Serve at once.

* Agave syrup is available from health food stores

For the remaining recipes and images please go to http://www.foodandtravel.com

© All recipes Food & Travel magazine, first published in August 2015

 

RPS1796_Chicken noodle salad

For my final slurp I wanted to share two more recipes from my book, Oodles of Noodles. Deciding which recipes to choose was quite hard, but in the end I have opted to blog a recipe from the remaining chapters in order to give you a good balance of just what to expect from the book. So we have a pretty, Japanese-inspired noodle salad with shredded chicken, fresh cool vegetables and a traditional sesame dressing. It is an explosion of textures and flavours and the overall impression you get with the first mouthful is one of freshness and well being; perfect for a light lunch.

In contrast my second choice is a far punchier and full-on crab noodle stir-fry. I love this recipe with it’s robust sweet, hot sauce, big chunks of delicious fresh cooked crab and wonderfully slippery egg noodles. It really is worth sourcing a good seafood supplier so the fresher the crab the better. If you don’t fancy preparing the crab yourself most fishmongers will happily do this for you and as long as you keep the crab well chilled and cook the dish the same day, the crab will be fine.

Let me know how you go, I’d love to get some feedback.

Chicken noodle salad with sesame and soy dressing

RPS1796_Chicken noodle salad

Photo Ian Wallace

Serves: 4

This summer salad can be made using any Japanese noodles. When researching this book I came across these black rice noodles, which make a startling contrast to the different vegetables and micro herbs. The end result is striking.

250 g dried black rice noodles

250 g cooked chicken breast fillet

100 g radishes, trimmed

2 carrots, trimmed

125 g mange tout, trimmed

1/2 cucumber, seeded

Japanese micro herbs

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

wafu dressing

1 small shallot, very finely chopped

2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dashi stock (see recipe page)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons caster sugar

1 teaspoon freshly grated root ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Make wafu dressing

 Place all the dressing ingredients in a screw top jar and shake well until amalgamated. Use as required.

Make salad

Plunge the noodles into a large saucepan of boiling water. Return to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes until al dente. Drain noodles and immediately refresh under cold water, washing well to remove any remaining starch. Drain again and dry thoroughly on a clean tea towel. Place noodles in a large bowl.

Shred the chicken into pieces and add to the noodles. Prepare the vegetables. Thinly slice the radishes, thinly slice and then shred the carrot into strips, thinly shred the mange tout. Cut the cucumber into thin batons.

Arrange all the ingredients on a plate, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss well together. Scatter over micro herbs and sesame seeds. Serve at once.

Crab and noodle stir-fry (Malaysia)

RPS1796_ P140 crab and noodle salad copy

Photo Ian Wallace

Serves: 4

This Malay version of Singapore crab was served to me on a trip to a small island, rather unattractively named Mud Island. However where there’s mud there are mud crabs and this tiny island on stilts, just off the west coast of Malaysia, is home to thousands of crabs and almost as many restaurants serving delicious platefuls of crab any which way. This was my choice and it was awesome.

1 onion, roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves

3 cm piece root ginger, peeled and chopped

2 small red bird’s eye chillies

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon shrimp paste

50 ml Shoaxing rice wine

250 ml tomato passata

250 ml chicken stock

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoons ketchup manis

1 kg fresh crab, prepared (see tip)

2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

400 g fresh egg noodles, or 200 g dried

shredded spring onions, to garnish

Place the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies in a blender and puree to make a smooth paste, stir in the shrimp paste. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the paste for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the rice wine and simmer for 1 minute then stir in the passata, stock, soy sauce and ketchup manis and cook for 10 minutes until thickened.

Add the prepared crab and spring onion, stir well, cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes until the crab is cooked through. Meanwhile, plunge the noodles into a large saucepan of boiling water and cook for 4 minutes until al dente. Drain the noodles, shake well to remove excess water and transfer to a large platter. Spoon the crab sauce over the top and serve sprinkled with extra spring onions.

 Tip: Its best to use a live crab for this, so ask your fishmonger to kill the crab for you and if possible to cut the crab up ready to stir-fry. Alternatively view the process online to see how to do it yourself. If you can’t face this use 1 kg cooked crab claws, cracking the shells with a hammer and continue as above

 

 

RPS1796_P46 scallop dumplings copy

Having hopefully got taste buds tingling with my first noodle recipe last week, a spicy beef pho, I thought I would opt for something totally different in this week’s post. Noodles come in all shapes and sizes from the long thin, slippery and slurpy noodles of the Vietnamese inspired soup, to the Chinese dumplings I have chosen today. Made with a fresh egg noodle dough, wonton wrappers are sold chilled or frozen in small square sheets of about 40 or so. They are available in Asian stores and online.

Chinese cooking, done well, is hard to beat and dim sum is a good example of just how difficult this can be. There are hundreds of restaurants (around the world) serving cheap, yes, but not great dim sum. However when you bite into a light, sleek, soft steamed dumpling to discover the delights inside it can be pure bliss. So with this I wish everyone a very happy Chinese New Year.

Steamed Rice Noodle Dumplings with Scallops

RPS1796_P46 scallop dumplings

Serves: 4

I love steamed dumplings and these are just about my favourite type. Dim sum or yum cha (as it’s known in Australia) was always a great lunch out for us – officious waiters pushing trolleys with towering bamboo steamers full of different dumplings and other delights

250 g shelled scallops (with out corals)

50 g water chestnuts, drained and chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic chives

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

2 teaspoons oyster sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

24 wonton wrappers

Szechuan chilli dressing

100 ml sunflower oil

1-2 teaspoons dried red chilli flakes

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon black vinegar

2 teaspoons caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon Szechuan pepper

a little sunflower oil, for cooking

shredded spring onions, to garnish

Make the dressing

Heat the oil in a small saucepan until it just starts to shimmer, remove from the heat and stir in the chilli flakes. Set aside for 30 minutes and then strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Make the dumplings

Trim the scallops, cutting away the grey muscle attached at one side and cut into small dice. Place in a bowl with the chestnuts, garlic, chives, soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil and stir well.

Lay the wrappers flat on a board and place a teaspoon of the scallop mixture in the centre. Brush around the edges with a little water and draw the sides up and around the filling pressing together to seal. Transfer each one to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Pop the base of each dumpling in a dish of oil and transfer to a medium-sized bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over a pan of simmering water for about 10-12 minutes until firm and cooked through. Serve with the dressing, garnished with shredded spring onions.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Twelve months ago (hard to believe how fast last year passed by) I was in London working on my latest cook book for best ever publishers Ryland, Peters & Small. The book, Oodles of Noodles was published later in the year and has been very well received – it’s always a thrill to know that not only has a book been published, but people have bought, read and cooked from it – so I wanted to share some of the recipes over the next few weeks.

The recipes were inspired by my travels throughout Asia as well as my years spent in Sydney which is chock full of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Korean restaurants. Hopefully you will enjoy cooking and eating them as much as I did researching, developing, writing and testing the recipes.

I also hope you enjoy the evocative images so beautifully shot by Ian Wallace and styled by the very talented stylist Tony Hutchinson. Thanks also to to Sonia, Leslie and Julia at RPS.

I am beginning with the title recipe, a fabulous Vietnamese soup. Enjoy…….

Vietnamese beef pho

RPS1796_Pho bo copy

Serves: 4

When I am visiting a city with a Vietnamese population I always try and make a trip to wherever the majority of Vietnamese have settled so I can treat myself to an authentic beef pho. It’s the large baskets of colourful herbs and condiments that give this classic soup its freshness and that unique flavour and texture I love so much.

1 kg beef short ribs

5 cm piece root ginger, sliced and bruised

1 onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

3 whole star anise, bruised

2 cinnamon sticks, bruised

400 g dried rice stick noodles

350 g beef fillet, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

juice 1 lime

125 g bean sprouts, trimmed

garnishes

2 red bird’s eye chillies, chopped

a handful each of fresh Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and coriander

6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

Put the beef ribs in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer fast for 10 minutes then drain and wash ribs. Return ribs to the pan and add 2 litres more cold water along with the ginger, onion, garlic, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 11/2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Remove the ribs from the stock and set aside to cool. Thinly shred the meat discarding bones. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and let cool. Refrigerate both the meat and the stock overnight.

The next day, soak the noodles in hot water for 20 minutes, drain and shake dry. Divide noodles between 4 large soup bowls. Meanwhile, remove the layer of fat from the cold stock and return the pan to the heat until boiling. Stir in the shredded meat, raw beef, fish sauce, salt, sugar and lime juice. Spoon the soup over the noodles and top with the bean sprouts. Serve soup with a plate of the garnishes in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Beef and Pumpkin curry 1

Although Halloween is over for another year, I still have tons of homegrown pumpkins to use up so I decided it was time for curry night in our house. This is a Thai inspired curry with coconut milk added at the end to intensify the flavour and add a layer of richness to the dish, ideal for this time of year as the evenings start to cool down. I hope you like it as much as we do.

Coriander beef, pumpkin and chilli curry

Beef and Pumpkin curry 1

Serves: 4

1 kg cubed beef steak

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp salt

4 long green chillies, chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 cm cube root ginger, pealed

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

2 tbs tomato puree

1 bunch fresh coriander

4 tbs sunflower oil

500 g butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed

125 ml coconut milk, plus extra to drizzle

turmeric rice and lime pickle, to serve

Place the beef in a bowl and add the ground coriander, black pepper and half the salt, stir well to coat meat and set aside until required.

Place the chillies, onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, tomato puree and all but a few sprigs of the coriander, roughly chopped, in a blender with 1 teaspoon salt and blend until smooth.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan fry the beef in batches in a flameproof casserole until browned, removing with a slotted spoon. Add a little extra oil to the pan if needed and add the paste, fry briefly until fragrant, then return the beef to the pan.

Bring to the boil, cover a simmer over a very low heat for 11/2  hours. Add the pumpkin to the pan, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes until the beef  is tender and the pumpkin mushy. Add the coconut milk and simmer gently for a few minutes until thickened.

Garnish the curry with the remaining coriander sprigs, drizzle over a little extra coconut milk and serve with turmeric rice and lime pickle.

Beef and Pumpkin curry 2

Posh Dogs 1

Back at last after a long absence, I wanted to share some of my delicious bonfire night favourites with you. The best bonfire food should be quick to cook, easy to hold (with gloves on!) and give you a warm glow to help ward off the cold night. Here are three hot dog recipes that fit the bill.

Duck sausages with pickled cucumber and hoisin sauce

Posh Dogs 1

All recipes serve: 4

8 baby cucumbers

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons caster sugar

4 duck sausages (you could use a smoked sausage)

2 tbs hoisin sauce

Start by making the pickle. Cut the cucumbers length ways into quarters and place in a bowl. Heat the salt, vinegar, sugar and 4 tablespoons water in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and pour over the cucumbers. Set aside until completely cold.

Cook the sausages as usual, split rolls and fill with sausages, pickled cucumbers and a drizzle of hoisin sauce.

Marguez dogs with harissa mayo and onion rings

Posh Dogs 1

1 onion, sliced

100 ml milk

1 egg, beaten

50 g polenta

8 marguez sausages

4 tbs mayonnaise

1-2 tsp harissa paste

1 tbs chopped preserved lemon

vegetable oil, for frying

Place onions rings in milk and soak for 5 minutes. Drain onion rings, dip in egg and then polenta to coat thoroughly. Heat about 5 cm oil in a wok or deep frying pan and when hot fry the onion rings for 1-2 minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen towel.

Cook sausages as usual. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise with harissa paste. Fill rolls with sausages, harissa mayonnaise and top with onion rings and a little preserved lemon.

Vietnamese sweet chilli and herb ‘dog’ sliders

Posh Dogs 2

4 pork sausages

4 tbs mayonnaise

2 tbs sweet chilli sauce

fresh Thai basil, coriander and mint

1 red chilli, thinly sliced

Cook sausages as usual. Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise with the sweet chilli sauce. Split the rolls and pile in the sausages, sweet chilli mayonnaise, fresh herbs and chilli slices.

Some styling pieces

Courgette Flowers

I love to seeing the striking yellow flowers of summer squashes, both for the celebration of the season and also to turn into yummy dishes. Sometimes I simply dust them in flower to make into quick and easy fritters, or stir them into a courgette risotto or through pasta. When I am feeling more adventurous or if have friends over for an alfresco supper, I like to go the whole hog and stuff these little beauties, dip them in batter and deep-fry them so the gooey cheesy centres starts to ooze. Here they are served with a herby dip of fresh mint and ground pistachio nuts making a lovely summer starter or light lunch dish.

You can use either the male flowers that have no fruit, just a stalk, or the female flowers if they have small mini courgettes attached.

Stuffed courgette flowers with mint and pistachio salsa

Stuffed courgettes with mint and pistachio salsa

Stuffed courgettes flowers with mint and pistachio salsa

Serves: 6

12 courgette flowers

150 g fresh ricotta

40 g freshly grated Pecorino

1 tsp of grated lemon zest and juice

2 eggs, separated

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

175 ml sparkling mineral water

125 g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

salsa

50 g pistachio nuts

1 bunch fresh mint leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 spring onions, chopped

125 ml extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

vegetable oil, for deep frying

Preheat the oven to 180c. Start by making the salsa. Whiz the nuts, herbs, garlic and spring onions in a food processor until coarsely ground. Add the oil and puree until fairly smooth, stir in the vinegar and season to taste.

Carefully open the courgette flowers and pick out the stamen. In a bowl mix together the ricotta, pecorino, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper. Carefully spoon the filling into the courgette flowers and twist the tops together to enclose filling.

Make the batter. In a bowl beat together the egg yolks, oil, water, flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff and fold into the batter.

Heat 5 cm vegetable oil in a wok or deep saucepan until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a cube of bread crisp in 20 seconds). Carefully dip the flowers (and courgettes, if female) into the hot oil and deep-fry in batches of 2 for 3 minutes, turning half way through until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven while cooking the rest. Transfer the courgette flowers to plates and serve with the salsa. 

Tip: don’t be fearful of deep-frying, if you follow the method it is easy. Investing in a sugar thermometer is a good way to ensure a crisp and light batter, they are available from all good cookware stores.

Bulghar falafel serve

Falafels are little nuggets of pulses, herbs and spices served as street food in Middle Eastern and North African countries. They are cooked and served in flat bread wraps with salad and tahini dressing. Traditionally they are made with chickpeas but here I have made two versions, firstly replacing the chickpeas with bulghar wheat to make a homemade falafel, whilst the second recipe not only returns to the classic chickpea falafel but uses a ready made falafel mix available from supermarkets and specialist food stores – making a really quick and simple mid-week supper dish.

Bulghar wheat falafel with courgette and haloumi salad 

 This recipe can be served as either a salad or as a wrap, it’s up to you – both a equally yummy.Bulghar falafel serve

Serves: 4

250 g bulghar wheat

1 bunch spring onions

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bunch coriander leaves (about 30g)

1 tsp ras al hanout*

1 tbs chickpea* or rice flour

1 tbs tahini paste

juice 1 lemon

200 g baby courgettes

1 small cucumber

haloumi, thinly sliced

a handful rocket leaves

a few fennel or edible flowers (optional)

Preserved lemon yogurt

1 tbs finely chopped preserved lemon

150 g Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon clear honey

1 tbs chopped fresh coriander

salt and pepper

vegetable oil for shallow frying

flat breads, to serve

Pour boiling water over the bulghar wheat and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly and place in a food processor. Add the onions, garlic, coriander, ras al haout, chickpea flour, tahini paste, 1 teaspoon salt and a little pepper and blend to form a smooth green paste. Shape into 32 oval patties and set aside. 

Make the preserved lemon yogurt dressing. Place the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and speckled green. Very thinly slice the courgettes and cucumber (using a mandolin or potato peeler). Place in a bowl and add the rocket and a coriander leaves.

Heat 5 cm oil in a wok or saucepan and fry the falafel for 5 minutes until evenly browned, turning halfway through. Drain well on kitchen paper. Arrange the salad on a platter and top with the falafel. Serve with the yogurt dip, edible flowers if using and some flat bread.

* Ras al hanout is a Middle Eastern spice mix available from some supermarkets or specialist food stores. Chickpea flour is also known as gram flour and is also available from most larger supermarkets or specialist food shops.

Couscous salad with falafel and hummus sauce

Couscous and falafel 1

Serves: 4

150 g couscous

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 bunch roughly chopped fresh mint

1 bunch roughly chopped fresh parsley

2 tbs lemon juice

225 g packet ready-made falafel *

125 g Greek yoghurt

100 g hummus

1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds

a pinch hot smoked paprika

4 pieces flatbread or pitta pockets, to serve

Place the couscous and 1 tablespoon oil in a heatproof bowl. Add 150 ml boiling water, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes until the couscous grains are softened. Stir with a fork to separate the grains and then stir in the tomatoes, herbs, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Set aside.

Heat the falafel following packet directions. Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, hummus and half the cumin seeds in a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil, cumin seeds and paprika. Serve the hot falafel with the couscous salad, yogurt hummus and flatbread.

Both these recipes were first published by Grazia UK. Photographed by Ian Wallace

quinoa grains still life

Quinoa pronounced kin wah, is the seed of a grain-like crop grown in South and Central America and is closely related to species such as beetroot and spinach. It originated in the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru where it has been grown for human consumption for over 3000 years. Its nutrient composition compares favourably with other cereals and is higher in essential amino acids such as lysine, making it a complete protein source. It also contains good levels of calcium, phosphorus and iron. It is gluten free and easy to digest. In its natural state the outer case of the seed is very bitter making it unpalatable but this is removed during processing. Despite this quinoa should always be well rinsed and soaked briefly before cooking. It is cooked rather like rice and once cooked it has a light fluffy texture and delicious nutty flavour. It can be cooked in either water or stock, flavoured with herbs and spices and combines well with vegetables, fruits and nuts. It is great in salads, as a side dish and provides a wonderfully power packed breakfast dish. Available as red, black or white quinoa, white tends to be the more widely available, and it can be found in health food stores and now in many larger supermarkets.

Grilled tuna steaks with preserved lemon quinoa salad

A00825PR Grilled tuna with quinoa salad copy

Serves: 4

Tuna is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acid and although it is recommended to eat fish twice a week (being a high source of protein but low source of fat) tuna does contain mercury it is best to only eat tuna (and other fish high in mercury such as swordfish and mackerel) once a week.

200g quinoa

250 ml water

80 ml orange juice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemon

50g toasted pistachio nuts

50g raisins

6 spring onions, trimmed and chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

2 tbsp each chopped fresh coriander and parsley

4 x 200g tuna steaks

dressing

60 ml extra virgin olive oil

juice 1/2 lemon

1 tsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

Place the quinoa in a bowl covered with plenty of cold water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve and transfer to a saucepan, add the water, orange juice, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, remove from the heat but leave undisturbed for 10 minutes. Fluff up the grains and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Combine all the remaining ingredients except the tuna in a large bowl, stir in the quinoa. Whisk the dressing ingredients together, pour over the quinoa and stir well until evenly combined.

Brush the tuna steaks with a little oil, season lightly and sear on a preheated ridged grill pan for 30 seconds each side or until cooked to your liking. Rest briefly and serve with the quinoa salad.

Quinoa bircher muesli

A00826PR Quinoa bircher muesli copy

Serves: 4

Bircher muesli is given an extra protein boost with the addition of quinoa making this delicious breakfast dish the perfect choice if you are planning a hard work out or have a busy day ahead.

150g cooked quinoa (about 60 g raw quinoa)

90g rolled oats

50g mixed nuts, roughly chopped

25g sunflower seeds

50g mixed dried fruits, such as craisins and blueberries

1 apple, cored and gated

375 ml organic apple juice

125 ml Greek style yogurt

100 g frozen mixed berries

2 tbsp clear honey

Place the oats, nuts, dried fruits grated, apple, apple juice and yogurt in a bowl, stir well until evenly combined and set aside to soak for 4 hours or overnight.

Defrost the berries and blend together until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and stir in the honey.

Divide the soaked quinoa mixture between bowls and top each with a drizzle of the berry sauce and serve with extra yogurt.

Rustic wooden box used for background

Choosing the right background for a food shoot is a hugely important part of my job as a stylist and sets the scene for the picture. Whether it’s a moody rustic winter look or a clean white summer feel, without the right background the shot just will not capture what you are hoping to portray. Over the years I have been commissioned to put together hundreds of different styles for magazines and cook books so I thought it would be fun to share a few of these and look at a few options you have to do this yourself.

Still Life (Women's Weekly Books)

Still Life (Women’s Weekly Books)

For this shot of autumn produce I chose a zinc table top with an old metal sheet marked with rust immediately creating a rustic feel – implying an old farmhouse kitchen – with quite elegant props. A pewter cake stand and pitcher and French wine glasses. I love this contrast, which is further emphasised by an old distressed linen cloth with frayed edges.

Prop Stop, Sydney

Prop Stop, Sydney

Now that I live in the rural France I no longer have access to prop house like the one above (Prop Stop in Sydney ) where you can hire all the props you might need in order to fulfil a brief. So I have to  ‘ad lib’ and either buy or make backgrounds that I can keep to use in future projects. This could be purchasing a roll of wallpaper and pasting it onto a large sheet of ply so the image represents part of a room.

Wallpaper and Rust Paint

Wallpapers

Or perhaps I may have to paint up some surfaces to make a mock wall or table topLuckily there are some fabulous paint products available today which will create an instant rust look, or crackle glaze effect. All these skills are essential if you going to be a stylist.

Food and Travel 18

Rust paint product with a painted rust wall behind

I remember one of my most taxing and head scratching briefs was to create a look that said ‘heroin chic’! Taking the example from the fashion world where beautiful young models were made to look half dead from drugs, I determined the look should be a combination of old, damaged, rustic surfaces with very clean, beautiful plates and exquisitely plated food.

I trawl as many flea markets or brocantes as I can to pick up bargains both smaller pieces like plates, glasses, cutlery etc. as well as old tables, doors, shutters, chairs etc. These get stacked in the barn or painted  varies colours, all of which add to an ever growing props cupboard.

Spring Brocante Bordeaux

Spring Brocante Bordeaux

Below is an old trestle table bought on ebay, plus an old door sourced from a reclamation yard.

Old floor boards, still covered in old peeling paint can be cut into lengths and set into a frame, making a lovely rustic table top (thanks Mick) and even discarded skip items like the piece of zinc below that was at some point used to mix cement on. All add atmosphere to a shot.

You could also try creating your own distressed zinc table top – buy a sheet of new zinc from your local hardware store and then using a solution of copper sulphate, available from art stores or a pharmacy (as powder) wipe over it to create an instantly aged zinc top. It’s like magic working in front of you – I love it. Here’s one I made earlier this year and now it takes pride of place in my kitchen!

Zinc table top

Zinc table top

Of course in the real world you just use your kitchen table or work top but as a stylist it’s your job to create an image for the reader and for me, it’s why I do the job. Creating something from nothing and being satisfied with the end result. It’s very rewarding.

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Photo Ian Wallace

I am a firm believer that rules are meant to be broken especially when it comes to pancakes! Yes for sure, flip away on pancake day but not exclusively. Why not make them whenever you fancy a wafer thin, slightly crisp, sweet, tangy dessert. I fancy that they are a forgotten pud, maybe a hangover from the 70’s dinner party favourite, crêpes Suzettes (along with the prawn cocktail and black forest gateaux). But I think we should reclaim them and this recipe is a far cry from the rather stodgy crêpes soaked in too much booze threatening eyebrows and fringes with it’s flames. Rather, here we have lovely thin pancakes rolled up and served with a divine passion fruit syrup spiked with Limoncello (easy to omit the Limoncello for the kids).

When making pancakes the first one is often a dud, but don’t worry just keep going; the next one, two, three, four and more should be perfect. For the best results get your frying pan hot and almost smoking, spray the base with a little oil and pour in the batter, swirling the pan as you go so the batter spreads immediately across the hot pan. Cook over a medium heat for just about 2 minutes lifting the edge of the pancake with a palette knife to check for doneness (a nice even, light golden brown is best). Then if you are feeling brave shake the pan to loosen it, flip up the wrist and the pancake will follow, up, over and down. Or if not, simply insert a fish slice underneath and turn over manually – either is fine. Cook for 30 seconds or so until the underside is speckled brown and turn out onto a warm plate. Repeat to make a second and serve both drizzled with the sauce. Then start over for the next serving and always eat them as hot as you can, as soon as you can.

Pancakes with passion fruit and Limoncello sauce

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

serves 6

3 passion fruit (about 50 ml pulp)

50 g caster sugar

50 ml water

2 tbsp Limoncello, plus extra to serve

125 g plain flour

a pinch salt

1 egg, beaten

300 ml milk

spray oil, for cooking

cream, lemon wedges, caster sugar or icing sugar

Make the syrup. Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the passion fruit pulp and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes until thickened and translucent. Leave to cool completely and stir in the Limoncello, set aside until required.

Make the pancakes. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre. Beat the egg and milk together until combined and then gradually whisk into the flour to form a smooth batter.

Spray a small non-stick frying pan (about 18 cm) with a little oil and heat until just starting to smoke. Swirl in about 60 ml of the batter to coat the base as evenly as possible and cook for 2 minutes until browned underneath, flip over and cook for a further 30 seconds or so until the second side is speckled brown. Remove from the pan and repeat to make 12 pancakes.

Roll pancakes, dust with sugar and serve drizzled with the syrup, lemon wedges and some cream

Photo Ian Wallace

It’s that time of year again, the tell-tale spiral of smoke swirling above gardens; backyards buzzing with talk and the evocative aroma of food sizzling on the barbecue. What is it that makes us so drawn to this age old method of cooking? I think its a combination of factors – its sociable, its outdoors and therefore has a more relaxed ambience and of course it is all about the taste – barbecued food should cook over a direct heat so the outside caramelises keeping the inside juicy and moist and of course delicious.

This recipe is my version of a classic south American barbecued steak traditionally served with a green sauce called Chimichurri – the cut used is a beef skirt steak that comes from the belly of the beast and it is best to marinate the steak before cooking, to help tenderise it. It is also best cut across the grain once cooked, again this helps tenderise the beef. The sauce, similar to a salsa is made with coriander and spices and goes really well with beef. Keeping with the all South American theme I have opted for blue potatoes to serve as crisps with the steak. They tend to be drier and more starchy than other varieties and lend themselves very well to deep-frying. You should be able to find them in larger supermarkets or speciality green grocers – alternatively you can use a more traditional chipping potato such as Yukon Gold, King Edwards or Maris Bard.

 Barbecued beef skirt wraps with chilli, coriander and lime salsa

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Serves: 6

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, crushed

grated zest 2 limes

1 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 kg skirt steak

500 g blue potatoes, peeled

ancho chilli powder

salsa

2 x bunches fresh coriander (50g)

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped

juice 2 limes

1 tsp caster sugar

150 ml extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

serving suggestions

250 g heirloom tomatoes, 1 avocado, diced

coriander leaves and aioli

Place the rosemary, garlic, lime zest, salt, pepper and oil in a bowl and stir well to combine. Place the meat in a shallow dish, add the marinade, stir well and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Return to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

Make the salsa just before you cook the meat to keep the lovely vibrant green colour. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, season to taste.

Preheat your barbecue (or ridged-grill pan) until hot and add the meat. Cook for 3-5 minutes each side, depending on how well you like the meat cooked. Transfer to a board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Make the chips. Either buy or make your own. Cut the potatoes into wafer thin slices. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes, drain and dry thoroughly on kitchen towel. Heat 5 cm oil in a wok or saucepan until a cube of bread, when added, sizzles immediately. Fry the potato wafers, in batches, for about 2 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with a little ancho chilli powder and salt and serve at once.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

This recipe and both images first appeared in Grazia UK June 2014

Photo Ian Wallace

I just love summer salads and tend to eat little else once the weather heats up. Last year I was working as cookery editor for Grazia (UK) magazine and one of my favourite recipes at the time was a delicious poached chicken and pea salad with a coconut and chilli dressing. This has now become one of our favourite salads at home and as fresh peas are abundant at the moment I thought you might like to try this out.

Poaching is a great and somewhat under used cooking method. It is in fact a very healthy way of cooking both meat and fish as you don’t need to add any fat. Not only that, but the poaching liquid ensures the meat will be lovely and moist and full of flavour. Often the stock is used as part of the dish but here the majority of the stock can be frozen for use in another dish.

 

Poached chicken with fresh pea, coconut and chilli salad

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Serves: 4

1.5 kg free range chicken

1 onion, roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, bashed

5 cm piece root ginger, sliced

50 ml light soy sauce

250 ml Shaoxing cooking wine

500 g mixed freshly shelled peas, mange tout and sugar snaps

50 g fresh pea shoots

a few fresh mint leaves

dressing

125 ml coconut cream
1 tbs poaching liquid from the chicken

juice 1 1ime

1 tsp freshly grated root ginger

2 tsp grated palm sugar

1 red chilli, seeded and chopped

salt

Trim the chicken and place, breast side down, in a large saucepan with the onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, cooking wine and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming the surface if necessary and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the pan.

When cold, remove the chicken, peel and discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid (reserve or freeze the stock to use another time).

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and season with a little salt, if necessary.

Steam or blanch the peas, mange tout and sugar snaps until al dente, drain well and immediately plunge into cold water. Drain again and dry thoroughly.

Arrange the peas, shredded chicken, pea shoots and herbs on serving plates and serve drizzled with the coconut chilli dressing.

TIP: Shaozing cooking wine is a Chinese rice wine and has a distinctive earthy flavour. It is available from many liquor stores or some larger supermarkets, as well as Chinese food stores.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut Elderflowers

As soon as I see the first elderflowers appearing in hedgerows and gardens I know that summer is just around the corner – sometimes a little further away than we hoped – but for sure the evenings are getting longer and their is a definite ‘bon vivant’ in the air. Elderflowers have a special place in my heart too as they remind me of childhood forays into the woods to go gathering basketfuls to take home and make into cordial and fizzy pop, as we called it. The past few years have seen a return to foraging and preserving due partly to the economic climate but also a desire to reconnect with nature. Suddenly lost pastimes are popular again and everywhere you look people are out hunting and gathering, pickling, salting, smoking and preserving. Bring it on…….

So it is the beginning of June and due to a slightly cooler spring the flowers are a little later than usual this year. I’m off basket in hand, dogs by my side and husband in tow with his camera to capture and record this years collecting of elderflowers for the blog. It’s only a gentle stroll along the path behind our home to a lovely sheltered spot where there are several heavily laden trees, more white than green, with so many flowers this year just waiting for to be picked. But why oh why do they always have to grow in the middle of a hundred nettles – I hate nettles!

Both of us love elderflower syrup, so that’s a definite. It’s such a versatile syrup and can be served simply, with water or why not try drizzling a little over wedges of chilled melon or stirred through whipped cream to serve with scones. The recipe is simple to make and the end result refreshing and delicious. Add ice cubes and sparkling water for a lovely summer drink or perhaps top up with Prosecco for a wonderfully fragrant aperitif.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Elderflower cordial

Makes: approx 2 litres cordial

20 elderflower heads, choose those with all the flower heads open and bright white

1.5 L cold water

1 kg granulated sugar

4 un-waxed lemons, thinly sliced

55 g citric acid

Wash the flowers lightly under cold waking shaking away insects. Place the water and sugar in a large saucepan and bring it the boil over a low heat, without stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the elderflowers, lemon slices and citric acid.

Cover the pan with a clean tea towel and leave to steep overnight in a cool place. The next day strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a piece of muslin and transfer to clean jars.

Seal and store until required. Once re-opened store cordial in the fridge.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Another great idea for making the most of the flowers is to serve them as crispy fritters, dusted with sugar and squeezed with lemon juice. The batter should be light so it doesn’t overpower the delicate nature of the flowers and they are best eaten just as soon as the batter cools enough to pop into the mouth. I tend to fry a couple, serve them and then fry a few more. Remember when deep-frying anything don’t over fill the pan with oil – for this recipe you will only need about 4-5 cm of oil in the bottom of a large wok or deep saucepan and have everything ready to go so that you don’t have the fat getter hotter and hotter. The best way to ensure that the oil is at the correct temperature for deep-frying is to invest in a sugar thermometer. It needs to be between 170-180c/340-350f but alternatively you can pop a small piece of bread into the hot oil – if it crisps and browns in 20 seconds the oil is perfect and remember the temperature will dip as the flowers go in so keep checking the thermometer and adjusting the heat as necessary.

Elderflower fritters

Serves: 4

8 elderflower heads

Batter

100 g plain white flour, sifted

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp caster sugar

175 ml fizzy water

caster sugar and lemons wedges, to serve

sunflower oil, for deep-frying

Wash the elderflower heads under water to remove any dead bits or insects and dry on kitchen paper. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar in a bowl and gradually whisk in the fizzy water until the batter is smooth.

Pour 5 cm or so of oil into a wok or old, deep saucepan and heat until it reaches 180c/350f on a sugar thermometer (or until a cube of bread added to the oil, crisps in 20 seconds).

Working in batches, dip 2 flower heads into the batter, shake off excess and deep-fry for 1 minute or until the fritters are golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the fritters dusted with sugar and some lemon wedges to squeeze.

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Snap and Stir App

Last year Ian and I, working together as Snap + Stir launched our first app Midweek Meals which was very exciting. We were lucky enough to be asked to collaborate on this venture with a good friend and even better (or should I say genius) creative director of Sodus, a boutique design studio in Sydney who were launching a new brand called Handmag, a platform for apps based on magazines for the hand.

The idea was to offer anyone with a smart phone (starting with the iPhone and then following that all smart phones) or iPad instant access to more than 50 fabulous, easy and delicious recipes suitable for midweek dinners at the swipe of a finger. How often have you found yourself on the train or bus home, or even walking down the street, trying hard to think of what to eat for dinner tonight? Because everyone is time poor these days it’s so easy and tempting to pick up a takeaway or heat up a ready meal, we wanted to show just how easy it can be to cook something tasty without spending an age in the kitchen after a long day at work.

All the recipes can be on the table within 30 minutes whilst some are even quicker – under 20 and even 15 minutes. Not only that you will be eating something healthier than you would if you took a more convenient option. The only way to know exactly what we are eating is to cook as much as we can from scratch and although it is inevitable that you will be using some processed products, many of the recipes on the app use fresh ingredients with plenty of vegetables, fish, chicken and pulses, as well as some meat dishes.

There is a good selection of meat free dishes for veggies and one or two vegan dishes. There are recipes ideal for summer whilst others will help keep you warm in the winter. Every recipe has been beautifully photographed by Ian Wallace, celebrated food photographer, which will inspire you to cook yourself something yummy every night of the week. Here are a few of the dishes two wet your appetite and if you’d like to purchase the app at a very reasonable Aud $ 1.99. You can click on the link at the bottom of this page.

 Pork asparagus and walnut salad

Pork asparagus and walnut salad

Photo Ian Wallace

Pork fillet, asparagus, baby spinach and walnuts combine with a tangy orange dressing in this lovely warm summer salad.

Serves: 4

grated zest and juice 1 orange

1 tsp ground cumin

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

500 g pork fillet

3 bunches asparagus, trimmed and halved

100 g salad mache or rocket

50 g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

salt and pepper

 spray oil, for cooking

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan forced and line a baking tray with baking paper. Combine the orange zest, cumin and plenty of salt and pepper in a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the pork fillet and rub the mix all over the pork.

Preheat a frying pan and fry the pork for 2-3 minutes until browned on all sides. Transfer to the prepared try and bake for 15 minutes. Wrap loosely in foil and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus spears in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until tender. Using a small balloon whisk, whisk together the orange juice, remaining oil, mustard and some salt and pepper. Cut the pork fillet into slices and arrange on warmed plates with the asparagus, salad leaves and walnuts. Drizzle over the dressing and serve.

Tandoori chicken with cashew nut rice

Tandoori chicken with cashew nut rice

Photo Ian Wallace

Your own homemade tandoori chicken in under 30 minutes – far healthier than anything from your local takeaway.

 Serves: 4

8 skinless chicken thigh fillets

200 g natural yogurt

1 tbsp bought tandoori spice paste

2 crushed garlic cloves

2 tsp grated root ginger

2 tsp lemon juice, plus extra to serve

cashew nut rice

2 tbsp vegetable oil

125 g cashew nuts

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp cumin seeds

6 cardamom pods, bashed

6 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, lightly bashed

350 g cooked basmati rice

pinch saffron strands

50 g raisins

salt and pepper

coriander leaves, to garnish

Place the chicken thigh fillets in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients and some salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside until required (if you have time marinate the chicken for as long as possible).

Cook the cashew rice. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and stir-fry the cashew nuts over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

 Add the onion, whole spices and a pinch salt to the oil and fry gently for 10 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat with the oil and add a splash of water. Scatter the saffron strands over the rice, cover and cook very gently for 5 minutes until the rice is heated through. Remove from the heat, stir in the raisins and cashew nuts, cover and leave to sit for a further 5 minutes.

 Heat the grill to high. Arrange the chicken thighs on a rack over a foil-lined grill pan and cook for 5-6 minutes each side until charred and cooked through. Squeeze over some lemon juice and serve with the rice, garnished with coriander leaves.

 Herb crusted cod with peas

Herb crusted cod with peas

Photo Ian Wallace

A crispy crust with Parmesan, lemon and herbs sits atop cod fillets. They are oven roasted and served with fresh peas and a green salad.
Serves 4

50g sliced bread

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus a few small leaves to garnish

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

grated zest 1 lemon

1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

500g vine ripened cherry tomatoes

4 x skinless cod fillets, about 175 g each

350 g frozen peas

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

 rocket salad, to serve

 Pre-heat the oven to 200c/fan-forced 180c and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Place the bread in a food processor and blend to make rough crumbs. Place crumbs in a bowl and add the herbs, cheese, lemon zest, egg and some salt and pepper.

 Brush the tops of each cod fillet with a olive oil and press crumb mixture on top of fish. Transfer to the prepared baking tray and arrange the cherry tomatoes around the fish. Bake for about 10 minutes until fish is cooked through and the topping is golden. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and rest for 5 minutes.

 Meanwhile, cook the peas in a saucepan of lightly salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes until cooked, return to the pan and stir in the remaining oil and balsamic vinegar and a few basil leaves. Divide between warmed plates, top with the fish and tomatoes and serve with a rocket salad.

Japanese mushroom noodle soup

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Soba noodles, mushrooms, tofu, sugar snaps and seaweed all add a wonderfully flavour to this delicate Japanese soup.

 Serves: 4

200g dried soba noodles

2 sachets instant dashi stock (or veggie stock if preferred)

1.5 litres boiling water

75 ml salt reduced soy sauce

3 tbs Mirin

350g mixed mushrooms, trimmed and wiped clean

250g silken tofu, drained and diced

150g sugar snaps, trimmed and halved

50g enoki mushrooms

1 sheet nori seaweed, cut into strips

 seven spice seasoning, to serve

 Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, drain well in a large sieve, refresh under cold water and set aside until required.

Combine the dashi stock, water, soy sauce and Mirin in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, covered over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the mixed mushrooms, cover and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the tofu, sugar snaps and enoki mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.

 Meanwhile, boil a full kettle of water. Place the noodles still in the sieve over the sink and pour over the boiling water. Shake off excess water and divide between serving bowls. Spoon over the soup and serve sprinkled with the seaweed and Japanese seven spice.

 Autumn pasta with beetroot and goat cheese

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

 Beetroot, goat cheese, pecan nuts and rocket are stirred through freshly cooked pasta.

 Serves: 4

 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

500 g pre-cooked beetroot

400 g fusilli or other dried pasta

200 g goat feta or goat cheese, crumbled

60 g pecan nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

a handful rocket leaves, to serve

 grated Pecorino, to serve

 Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for 10 minutes until golden but not browned. Add the beetroot and cook gently for 3 minutes until heated through. Season to taste.

 Meanwhile, plunge the pasta into a large bowl of lightly salted boiling water, return to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta and add 4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid to the beetroot.

 Spoon the pasta into bowls and serve topped with the beetroot, goat feta, pecans and parsley. Drizzle over a little more oil and serve topped with a few rocket leaves and grated Pecorino.

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/snap+stir/id692174352?mt=8

Photo Ian Wallace

Since moving to France last year Ian and I have taken to the art of brocanting with a vengeance. If you are not yet familiar with this French pastime, basically every weekend throughout spring and summer (as well as a few in the winter) there are literally thousands of flea markets held in villages and towns all over France. Aside from this however there are many permanent brocantes many of which are a combination of antiques and junk, but quite often after a good rummage there are bargains to be had…………. a stylists ‘Aladdin’s cave’

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Hours of pleasure can be had in amongst cracked plates, dust covered pans and piles of old sheets, napkins and tea towels and I have been known to whoop with glee and jump up and down at something that even the owner considers worthless!

A few minutes drive from us is the small and very pretty village of Bors de Montmoreau and at it’s heart is one of my favourite such places L’Incontournable Brocante or The Essential Brocante. It is a collection of out buildings and barns in the courtyard of a family home. A warren of small and large rooms packed to the rafters with everything from tables, chairs and cupboards to shelves of antique glassware, plates, objets d’art and paintings.

The owner Benoit Le Grelle is always on hand to offer his advice on his latest acquisitions and can often be found in his workshop repairing and renovating old pieces. ‘My favourite pieces are the old original pieces in need of some TLC from house sales that would otherwise end up as fire wood’ Benoit told me.

He has been sharing his love of the old at Brocante L’Incontournable for the last 6 years and although many of his customers are visiting English holidaymakers he also sells to a loyal following of French, British and Dutch locals. He tells me that he scours ‘vide maisons’ or house sales around the area for the majority of his pieces and has a particular love of old paintings, which you can tell by the amount he has pinned to every spare wall.

I usually pop over when I need plates or glasses for a shoot as he has a great selection of both at very reasonable prices, although occasionally we will buy something larger for the house or garden. On my most recent visit I was delighted when I uncovered a stack of pretty dessert plates, a few off cuts of lace and lovely little mother of pearl handled tea forks, which I will no doubt inspire some wonderful French fancies or desserts – new blog post to follow soon.

Benoit also has collected masses of fabulous galvanised pots that are perfect for garden planters and other non food related items and this time Ian found the perfect old ships bell for the front door. No longer will our visitors have to bang long and loud on the window, this toll of this old beauty can probably be heard in London!

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

Photo Ian Wallace

As the sun starts to warm the earth after the chilly winter months the countryside is abundant with new shoots and herbs. Amongst these you may well find wild garlic especially in the danker more sheltered spots in woods, forests and roadside verges or banks. A visit to Cornwall over Easter included an afternoon foraging and with the pungent aroma of garlic everywhere we returned to our guests house with a basketful of light green leaves. The leaves are perfect for pounding into a pesto like sauce and storing for later use in risottos, pasta dishes, breads or omelettes.

Back to the kitchen to pick through the leaves and remove any dirt or bugs and so cooking could begin in earnest.

Wild garlic leaves photo Ian Wallace

Wild garlic leaves photo Ian Wallace

Once washed you can blend the leaves into a puree and this can either be used immediately or will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (recipe below). This versatile paste can be added to soups and stews or used as a sauce on poached eggs, stirred into scrambled eggs or a creamy risotto. Or add a few toasted and chopped pine nuts and grated Parmesan for a simple and delicious garlic pesto.

Wild garlic puree

Wild Garlic 2

Wild garlic puree Photo Ian Wallace

A large bunch wild garlic leaves, rinsed and dried

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place the leaves in a food processor with a little oil and blend until smooth, adding enough oil to make a pesto like sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and use at once or store in the fridge in a sealed container. Use as required. This will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Smoked salmon poached egg and garlic toasts

Wild Garlic 1

Smoked salmon poached eggs and wild garlic photo Ian Wallace

Serves: 2

2 free-range eggs

2 slices wholemeal toast

butter

100 g smoked salmon

2 tablespoons wild garlic puree

pepper

a few rocket leaves, to serve

Cook the eggs. Place a pan of water on to boil with a tablespoon of white vinegar added to it. Once simmering, swirl the water with a spoon and gently crack the eggs into the water. Simmer very gently for 3 minutes until cooked but still soft in the middle.

Meanwhile, spread the toast with butter and top with slices of smoked salmon. As soon as the eggs are cooked pop one onto each toast and spoon on the garlic puree. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve at once with a little rocket.

 Clam and panchetta linguine with wild garlic puree

Clam and panchetta linguine with wild garlic puree photo Ian Wallace

serves: 2

1 kg baby clams, scrubbed

a splash white wine

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

125 g pancetta, diced

1 small onion, finely chopped

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

a pinch red chilli flakes

2-4 tablespoons garlic puree

200 g linguine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

Place the clams in a large saucepan with a splash of wine and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until all the shells have opened (discard any that remain closed). Drain the clams reserving the stock, passing the liquid trough a fine sieve to remove any grit, keep warm. Remove the clams from the shells if wished.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the pancetta for 3-4 minutes until browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the heat and fry the onion, garlic, lemon zest, chilli flakes and a little pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the clams and garlic paste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain well and return to the pan. Stir in the clam mixture, pancetta, a little of the reserved cooking liquid and parsley. Stir over the heat for a minute or so, taste and add a little lemon juice and salt if necessary. Serve at once with a little extra puree if wished.

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I have always loved ceramics, way before I became a food stylist and for years I had thought about having a go at pottery. Finally about 2 years ago I joined a small class of potters in a local community centre in Sydney and began what has now become a passion. Throwing on the wheel is my chance to take time out of my busy work life, it’s my meditation if you like and I get totally lost in it – anyone who knows me will agree, it’s perhaps the only time I really get to sit still (although not quite still, but at least in one spot).

Of course, it is really useful for my work as well. If I can’t find exactly what I want in the shops I have a go at making something instead – to varying levels of success as I am certainly just a beginner. Sometimes I end up with a bowl or plate I actually like!

Having now taken the plunge and invested in a wheel, I am determined to improve and even if I never become a commercially successful potter, I hope to enjoy this simple creative process for years to come. Here are a few of my recent pieces (apologies to those who have already seen these, there are more coming soon).

Single stem vase photo Ian Wallace

Single stem vase photo Ian Wallace

Pots and things photo Ian Wallace

Pots and things photo Ian Wallace

Coffee cups photo Ian Wallace

Coffee cups photo Ian Wallace

Inky bowlsphoto Ian Wallace

Inky bowls photo Ian Wallace

Published by Ryland Peters and Small

Paella may well be Spain’s national dish, but it most certainly isn’t the only rice dish loved by the Spanish. My latest book Paella and other Spanish rice dishes published by Ryland Peters & Small explores just that and includes more than 30 delicious rice dishes. From the obvious paella to rice soups, creamy rice dishes (which resemble Italian risotto) to baked rice dishes which includes a couple of rice desserts. Beautifully photographed by Ian Wallace this is a great little book packed with recipes for all occasions.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Chicken and seafood paella – photography by Ian Wallace

What I love about writing recipes for a new project is what you get to learn on the journey. It isn’t just new recipes, flavours and dishes but all the history of food and culture. I knew a little about Spanish rice, but I sound found out that there is so much more. A flying trip to Valencia, one of Spain’s largest rice producing regions, included a trip to the Rice Museum (Museo de Arroz) to learn how rice used to be processed as well as a visit to the rice fields on the outskirts of the city along the shores of Lake Albufera to see rice growing today. Of course the trip also included eating as many different types of rice dishes I could manage over 3 days – not too much of hardship really!

If you like what you see below and would like to purchase the book , here’s the link http://www.rylandpeters.com/paella

Chicken and seafood paella (paella con pollo y marisco) shown above

Serves 4

This is the paella that most people know as Spanish paella, and it can be found in restaurants all over Spain, not always (in fact rarely) as the original Alicante version was intended. This adaptation is as close as I can get in a domestic kitchen. If you cannot find mussels or langoustine, use any other fresh seafood you can buy.

500 g/18 oz. mussels, cleaned

100 ml/1⁄3 cup dry white wine

8 large prawns/jumbo shrimp

8 langoustines (optional)

1⁄4 teaspoon saffron strands

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 skinless chicken thigh fillets, quartered

350 g/3⁄4 lb. prepared squid rings

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 red/bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

350 g/scant 2 cups bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice

200 g/11⁄ 3 cups fresh or frozen peas

salt and freshly ground black pepper

freshly chopped parsley, to garnish

Discard any mussels that do not close when tapped on the work surface. Place the mussels, still wet from cleaning, in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the wine and cook the mussels, covered, for 4–5 minutes, until the shells have opened (discard any that remain closed). Strain and reserve the liquid. Set the mussels aside.

Remove the heads from the prawns/shrimp and langoustines and add the heads to the mussel liquid along with 1.25 litres/5 cups cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming the surface to remove any scum, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve/strainer into a saucepan (you should have about 1 litre/generous 4 cups), stir in the saffron strands and keep warm.

Heat half the oil in a 35-cm/14-in. paella pan (or shallow flameproof casserole) and fry the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes, until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the prawns/shrimp, then the langoustines, if using, and finally the squid rings, frying for 2–3 minutes, until golden, removing each with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the heat, add the remaining oil to the pan and gently fry the garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the pepper, tomatoes and paprika, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is sticky. Stir in the rice and return the chicken to the pan. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in the prawns/shrimp, langoustines, mussels, squid and peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, until the rice and seafood are cooked. Season to taste, then leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Photography by Ian Wallace

Rice with squid in ink (arroz negro)

Serves 2

Black, unctuous and quite unlike any other rice dish, the flavour of this crazy-looking rice is truly fabulous. You can use either squid or cuttlefish for this recipe, and ask your fishmonger for the small packets of prepared squid ink. You will need 2 small packs or 2 teaspoons. Double the quantities, as required, for more people.

350 g/3⁄4 lb. prepared small squid or cuttlefish (you can use pre-cleaned squid)

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 small red/bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1⁄4 teaspoon saffron strands, ground

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

2 teaspoons squid ink

500 ml/generous 2 cups hot fish or chicken stock *

150 g/generous 3⁄4 cup bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the prepared squid. Heat the oil in a 25-cm/10-in. frying pan/skillet or shallow flameproof casserole, and quickly stir-fry the squid for 2–3 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the garlic and red/bell pepper to the pan with a little salt, and fry gently for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato, paprika, saffron and parsley, and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the mixture is quite dry.

Place the squid ink in a bowl and stir in a little of the hot stock. Add the rice to the casserole, stir well and then add the squid pieces, inky stock and the rest of the stock.

Stir once and then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the rice is al dente and the stock is creamy and quite sticky. Season to taste, and serve immediately with some crusty bread.

Tip: to make fish stock, place fish trimmings and prawn/shrimp shells, etc., into a pan with some chopped celery, leek, parsley, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Add 1.5 litres/generous 6 cups cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

Baked rice pudding copy

Photography by Ian Wallace

Baked saffron rice pudding (arroz con leche y azafrán al horno)

Serves 4

There is something truly comforting about eating baked rice pudding. Perhaps it’s the fond memories of childhood puds, or the soft, creamy texture of the dish. This version offers an intriguing hint of saffron. If you want, you can add some dried raisins or currants before baking and serve topped with a drizzle of cream and whatever fresh fruits are in season.

125 g/scant 3⁄4 cup bomba, Calasparra or arborio rice

1 litre/generous 4 cups fullfat/ whole milk

75 g/6 tablespoons caster/ granulated sugar

1 vanilla pod/bean, split

a pinch of saffron strands

25 g/2 tablespoons butter, diced

cream and seasonal fruits, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2 and grease a 1.5-litre/6-cup baking dish.

Wash the rice in a sieve/strainer, shake well and place in the prepared dish. Place the milk, sugar, vanilla pod/bean and saffron strands in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

Discard the vanilla pod/bean, scraping the seeds into the milk, then pour the milk over the rice. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.Stir well, carefully dot the top with butter and bake for a further 1 hour, until the top of the pudding is golden brown. Lift a little of the skin with the point of a knife; the sauce should be thick and creamy. Cook for longer, if required. Rest for 10 minutes before serving with some cream and fresh fruits, if wished.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Classic Tarte Tatin

Serves 8

100 g brown sugar

4 tbsp water

250 g puff pastry

75 g butter, diced

1.5 kg russet or other eating apples, peeled, quartered and cored

creme fraiche, to serve

Pre-heat the oven to 200 c/fan-forced 180 c. Make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in an oven-proof frying pan and heat gently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, increase the heat and boil for 2-3 minutes until the sauce turns golden. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Arrange the apples cut side up in the pan fitting them in snuggly. Return the pan to the heat and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the apples are beginning to brown on the undersides. Check undersides by carefully lifting the apples with a palette knife.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry to a circle just slightly larger than the pan. When the apples are ready, remove the pan from the heat and place the pastry over the apples, pressing down into the sides of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.Invert the pie onto a large plate and serve warm with some creme fraiche.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Photography by Ian Wallace

Strawberry and goat cheese tartlets

Serves: 8

250 g sweet shortcrust pastry, thawed if frozen

1 egg yolk

35 g caster sugar

125 g firm ricotta cheese

125 g soft goat cheese strawberries

500 g strawberries, hulled and halved

75 g caster sugar vanilla pod, split

Preheat oven to 200°c/fan-forced 180c. Line a roasting tin with baking paper. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until 2 mm thick. Using a 12 cm pastry cutter, stamp out 6 rounds (rerolling as necessary). Use to line 6 x 10 cm fluted flan tins, trimming away the excess and prick the bases with a fork. Chill for 20 minutes. Line pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10 minutes or until edges are light golden. Remove the baking paper and beans and bake for a further 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the strawberries. Place the strawberries, sugar and vanilla pod in the prepared tin. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until softened and juicy. Remove from the oven and leave to go cold. Make the filling. Place the egg yolk, sugar and ricotta in a food processor and blend until really smooth. Add the goat cheese and blend again briefly until smooth. Divide the mixture between the tart cases and serve topped with the roasted strawberries.

Photography Ian Wallace

Photography Ian Wallace

Pistachio honey and rosewater cake

Serves: 8

125 g caster sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 lemons

125 ml Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve

50 g dried breadcrumbs

150 g ground pistachio nuts

100 ml clear honey

2 tbsp rosewater

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/fan-forced 160c. Grease and line a 20 cm round cake tin. Beat the sugar, egg yolks and the grated rind of 1 of the lemons together until pale and creamy. Stir in the yogurt and fold in the breadcrumbs and 125 g of the pistachio nuts, reserving the rest for decoration. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff and fold into the cake mixture. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the syrup: peel the remaining lemons and cut the rind into very thin strips. Squeeze the juice into a small pan and add the honey. Bring to the boil, add shredded rind, and simmer for 1 minute. Cool slightly and stir in the rosewater. Place the warm cake on a serving plate, prick all over with a skewer, pour over the syrup and leave until cold. Sprinkle the cake with the reserved pistachio nuts and rose petals (if using) and serve with some extra yogurt.

Plumb and almond tart

Photography by Ian Wallace

Plum and almond tart

Serves: 8

250 g sweet shortcrust pastry

2 tbsp raspberry jam

125 g unsalted butter, softened

125 g caster sugar

125 g ground almonds

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla essence
4 plums, halved, stoned and cut into thick slices

maple syrup ice cream

750ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, split

5 egg yolks

125 ml maple syrup icing sugar, to dust

Firstly make the ice cream. Heat the cream and vanilla pod in a small pan until it just reaches boiling point. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the cream. Whisk the egg yolks and maple syrup together and then beat in the cream. Heat gently, stirring until the cream thickens to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Allow to cool and then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions until frozen*

Preheat the oven to 190c/fan-forced 170 c. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to form a 25 cm round and use to line a 23 cm fluted flan tin. Trim off excess pastry and prick the base. Chill for 20 minutes. Line the pastry with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 12 minutes. Remove paper and beans and bake for a further 5-6 minutes until the pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar, and ground almonds in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Spread the pastry case with the jam and top with the almond mixture. Gently press the plum slices into the almond mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is golden and firm. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve in wedges with the ice cream.

Photography by Ian Wallace

Photography by Ian Wallace

Walnut cake with honey cream

Serves: 8

The cake can be made up to a day ahead. Store in an airtight container. Make the honey cream just before serving.

6 eggs, separated

225 g caster sugar

4 tbsp clear honey

250 g walnuts, ground

300 ml thickened cream

4 fresh figs, quartered

 icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180 c/fan-forced 160c c. Grease and line a 23 cm round spring form cake tin. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl, add 150 g of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the honey and whisk together until pale. Stir in the walnuts. Whisk the egg whites separately in a clean bowl until soft peaks form and then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar. Stir a large spoonful into the cake mix to loosen, fold in the rest until evenly incorporated and spoon into the prepared tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then run a palette knife around the edge of the cake to loosen from the sides and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Whisk the cream and remaining honey together until thickened. Cut the cake into wedges, dust with icing sugar and serve with the honey cream and figs.  

A very good friend and fellow food writer Judy Ridgway has agreed to share some of her experiences of the cuisine of Ticino in southern Switzerland where she and her husband spend much of their time enjoying not only the wonderful scenery of the area, but the many local specialities including polenta, risotto and a wonderful chocolate cake made with leftover bread.

A little bit about Judy

As well as being an author and journalist Judy is one of the world’s leading olive oil experts. She lives part of the year in the UK and part in the Ticino region of Switzerland.  She also spends time travelling in the olive oil producing countries, tasting the oils,  meeting the growers and gathering traditional and local recipes to use in her articles and blogs. She is the author of more than 65 books on many aspects of food and wine. Her most recent book is “Catering for a Wedding”, published in May.  She also has a new book coming out in September, written with co-author Dr, Simon Poole, about the amazing health benefits of olive oil entitled The Olive Oil Diet.   

JRidgway03_3

www.oliveoil.org.uk  www.judyridgway.co.uk

When I first arrived in the Ticino region of southern Switzerland I thought I had moved directly into Italy. The language was Italian and so was the food. But it did not take too long to find that first impressions can be deceptive. Yes, there is lots of pasta on the menus and plenty of pizza around but once you look beyond these symbols of Italian influence there is a traditional Ticinese cuisine to be found.

In days gone by this small region tucked into the southern foothills of the Swiss alps was extremely isolated and it took the building of the main road and railway through the Gottardo tunnels to bring in any kind of outside influence. The people were poor and mountain living precarious with only the flat-bottomed valleys to provide a small agricultural base. The diet was based on the three staples of polenta, bread and potatoes, served with cheese from the local cattle or with wild meat stews made with rabbit or mountain goat on high days and holidays.

Today polenta remains one of the principle foods of the region. However, polenta here is not the fine, yellow cornmeal mush of the rest of the northern Italian plain. In the Ticino there is

no separation out of the finer parts of the corn kernels and so the polenta is darker in colour and coarser in texture. It also has a stronger deliciously specific flavour its own. A real speciality from the Magadino plain north of lake Maggiore is Rosa del Ticino polenta made from a variety of corn with red grains. Polenta takes quite a while to cook and involves a good deal of stirring so most people buy it on the markets where it is made in the open air in large cauldrons, steaming away over a wood fire. Such cauldrons of polenta are also a feature of open air events where the polenta is served not with one of the many local cheeses but with a large slice of Gorgonzola.

You either love polenta, as I do, or you hate it. If you are among the latter Ticinese risotto is the answer. This is a slightly later introduction from Lombardy but the Ticinese have made it their own, growing rice in the Terreni di Maggia and using Ticino Merlot wines and saffron from the Valais to flavour the dish. (see recipe). One of the best ways to serve Ticinese risotto is with the local Luganighetta.

_luganighetta_sausage_06

These are thin pork sausages shaped into a Catherine wheel and grilled on an open fire. They will be a feature on the menu of your local Grotto.

A grotto is not, as I first thought, a local cave or feature of the landscape but a rustic restaurant where much of the cooking and the eating is done outside. Only very traditional dishes are served and most of the ingredients are locally produced. Here you will find the salumi or air-dried products of the region and a range of goat’s and ewe’s milk cheeses which are quite different to the traditional Swiss mountain cheeses. Look out too for Ticinese Minestrone without the pasta found in Italian versions of the soup, Busecca, a tripe soup made with a vegetable soffritto and borlotti beans and Tortelli, or Torta del Pane, a cake made from stale bread.

There are literally hundreds of recipes for Torta del Pane. Every cook in the region has their own recipe for it. At one time it was served for breakfast, at lunch time and as an evening snack. Old bread, flavoured with amoretti biscuits is the base of the cake. These ingredients are mixed with eggs and a variety of other flavouring such as cinnamon, chocolate, raisins and pine nuts (See recipe) Stale bread in the Ticino usually means a wholegrain or dark bread. Not for the Ticinese the rather papery white bread of the Lombardy plains. This is the one area where the northern influences of German-speaking Switzerland come into play and the bread shops are a delight to behold with an array of two dozen or more different breads and rolls.

Finally, no Ticinese meal is complete without a glass of Ticino Merlot. This local wine comes in white, rose and red versions, all pressed from the local Merlot variety. In the grottos the wine is served in little jugs and poured into small earthenware bowls. In more up-market restaurants the wine comes in bottles and may have been aged in oak barrels to give more body to the wine. All the wines are rather different to Merlot wines from other areas.

They have a much more fruity and less furry character.

RISOTTO ALLA TICINESE

Lou Blog Risotto

Risotto, here as in other areas is traditionally made with butter. However, if you want to cut down on your saturated fat intake or are vegan it can be made using the same amount of olive oil as butter. If you live in the Lugano area of the Ticino you can buy Swiss olive oil which is pressed from olives grown round the shores of Lake Lugano.

http://www.judyridgway.co.uk/swiss-olive-oil

800ml Chicken stock

1 teaspoon powdered saffron

100g butter

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

200g risotto rice

1 glass white Ticinese Merlot

100g freshly grated Parmesan

Place the stock in a pan and heat gently. Add the saffron and stir to dissolve the

saffron. Keep hot.

Gently heat the butter in another pan and fry the onion until it turns a light gold in

colour. Add the rice and stir well.

Add the glass of wine next and Turn up the heat. Stir again until all the liquid has

been absorbed.

Gradually add ladlefuls of stock to the rice, little by little, stirring all the time.

The rice should be cooked but not too dense after about 20 minutes.

Remove from the fire and rest for a minute. Then stir in the parmesan cheese and

serve.

 

TORTA DEL PANE

Lou blog torta de pane

Choose a wholemeal or dark bread for this recipe. Do not remove the crusts before weighing for the recipe. Do not bother with a knife or toothpick to test the interior of the cake as it should remain slightly wet.

200g stale bread

500m milk

100g sugar

50g butter

1 egg

25g cocoa

50g rasisn

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Grated rind of 1 lemon

1 small glass grappa

50g pine nuts

Set the oven to 170C and grease and line a small square tray-bake tin with baking

parchment.

Cut the bread into cubes and place in a bowl. Pour the boiling milk over the top and

leave to stand for six hours or overnight. Crush the soaked bread with your hands,

taking time to work all the bits of crust into the mixture. Do not use a good processor

or the mixture will be too fine.

Add all the remaining ingredients, except the pine nuts, stirring between the additions

to get a smooth mix. Spoon into the prepared baking tin and sprinkle with the pine

nuts.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Turn the heat up to 180C and continue

cooking for a further 45 minutes.

Leave to cook and then turn out to serve.

Mary Cadogan

Food Writer, Stylist, Home Cook

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Let the feast commence.

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