a food stylist's blog

Cooking courses and food tours in SW France

Well after an initial burst of warm spring weather, it is yet again cool and wet, so in order to give myself a little taste of summer, I came across this lovely summer entertaining feature my husband, photographer Ian Wallace and I shot last summer for Food & Travel magazine in the UK.

As you can see from Ian’s stunning photos it was a lovely sunny day and the colours from the food, styling and flowers zing out at you. Rather than a formal sit down menu, the al fresco nature of the story led me to assemble sharing patters, ideal for a more relaxed ambience.

Scene setter for our summer menu

Seared tuna is one of my favourite ways of eating this meaty and some would say king of the ocean. Here it is served with a spiced chermoula salsa with a hint of chilli. Chermoula is a combination of herbs, spices and aromatics used as a marinade or sauce in many Arabic countries. The actual combination of ingredients varies widely from country to country and even region to region and this one is inspired by a version I had in a London restaurant many years ago. It is great with most types of meaty fish, chicken, and lamb or even drizzled over grilled vegetables.

Tuna chermoula 2 copy

Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Beef and anchovy are happy sparing partners and here, beautifully moist slices of rare beef fillet is served with a creamy anchovy dressing. A contrasting texture comes in the form of the crispy pangrattato, Italian for fried bread crumbs. It is spiced up here with a little red onion, garlic and fresh thyme.

Beef with pangrattata copy

Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattato

Alongside our main dishes are two pretty salad platters full of Mediterranean flavours – you can almost feel the warmth of the sun as you look at them. The orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb salad is my version of a dish I was served last summer by friends who love everything Spanish. They too had been inspired by this dish from Ibiza, one of the Spanish balearic Islands. I love the little sprinkles of blackness made by the olive crumbs.

To further complement our two main dishes is a platter of char-grilled asparagus topped with creamy burrata cheese – where balls of buffalo mozzarella are filled with a rich creamy centre that oozes pure yumminess when cut open. The dressing is made sweet with the inclusion of vincotta, a thick syrup made by the long, slow reduction of grape must, produced in the Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Apulia, and Marche regions of Italy. If is available from Itlian food stores or online. If you can’t find it, an aged or reduced balsamic vinegar is a good alternative.

Salad accomps copy

Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb & Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincota dressing 

I simply adore coconut, so any excuse really to use it in a recipe. It adds a wonderful moist texture to this simple cake made just that little bit more special with the passionfruit drizzle. You can sieve out the passionfruit seeds if you prefer, but I think they look great and I love the crunch they add.

Coconut and passionfruit cake 2 copy

Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

And if you don’t fancy cake, why not treat yourself to this delicious and decadent cocktail inspired, upside down cheesecake. It is a lovely end to this summer feast and the salty zing from the salted lime praline is lovely surprise.

margarita-cheesecake-2-copy.jpg

Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Summer may still be a little ways off for us here in France, but at least I can dream of warmer evenings and delicious flavours to come.

RECIPES

Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Serves: 6

6 x 180g tuna loin steaks

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds (optional)

1 bunch coriander

1 large red chili, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

a pinch of saffron strands

juice ½ lemon

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

salt and pepper

lemon wedges, to garnish

Trim the tuna steaks and brush with a little oil. Combine the paprika, cinnamon, fennel fronds if using, salt and pepper and press all over the tuna. Set aside.

Make the chermoula. Combine the coriander leaves and smaller stalks, chilli, garlic, saffron strands, lemon juice, oil and some salt and pepper in a mini food processor and blitz until smooth.

Sear the tuna on a hot barbecue or griddle pan for 1 minute each side and then rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with the chermoula.

Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattata

Serves: 6

1.25 kg beef fillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

salt and pepper

pangrattata

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, bashed

100g day old bread, made into rough crumbs

½ small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

25g pine nuts, toasted

2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

anchovy dressing

125g aioli

3 anchovy fillets, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5. Rub the beef fillet with oil and then dust with the thyme, salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat and sear the beef for about 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make the pangrattata. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic for 3-4 minutes over a low heat until lightly golden. Discard garlic. Increase the heat, add the breadcrumbs to the pan and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until evenly browned. Drain on kitchen paper. Combine the onion with the vinegar and set aside to soften for 15 mins. Drain and pat dry.

Make the dressing. Place the aioli, anchovies, lemon juice and a little pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Cover and set aside.

To serve, place the breadcrumbs, onion, pine nuts, capers and parsley in a bowl and stir well. Cut the beef into thin slices (it should be lovely a pink in the middle) and top with some of the pangrattata, the anchovy dressing and a little extra drizzle of oil.

Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincotta dressing

Serves: 6

1 kg asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

200g ball buratta cheese

300g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved

50g rocket leaves

25g pistachio nuts, chopped

15g Parmesan shavings

dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon vincotto (or aged balsamic)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus stalks and place on a tray, add the oil and season with salt and pepper, stir well. Cook on a hot griddle pan for 3-4 minutes turning half way through until lightly charred. Transfer to a platter and let cool.

Make the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

Tear the burrata into pieces and arrange over the asparagus with the tomatoes, rocket and pistachio nuts. Drizzle over the dressing and serve scattered with parmesan shavings.

Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb

Serves: 6

50g pitted black olives

300g baby new potatoes

1 small head fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved for the beef)

8 large radishes, trimmed

3 oranges

3 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

a small fresh chervil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 140c/220f/gas mark 1. Make the olive crumb. Place the olives on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake the olives for 1-1/2 hours until dried out. Leave to cool and then transfer to a chopping board. Chop finely until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes for 10-12 minutes until just tender, drain, refresh under cold water and drain again. Pat dry and let cool. Cut larger potatoes in half.

Finely slice the fennel. Thinly slice the radishes.

Peel and thinly slice the oranges over a bowl to catch the juices and arrange the slices on a platter. Taking all the peelings and ends of the oranges squeeze any juice into the bowl. Whisk in the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and salt and pepper.

Top the orange slices with the potatoes, fennel and radish slices and scatter over the chervil leaves. Top with the olive crumbs and serve drizzled with the dressing.

Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

Serves: 8-10

180g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

6 eggs

225 g desiccated coconut

225 g self-raising flour

250g Greek yogurt or crème fraiche

300g raspberries

passionfruit drizzle

150g caster sugar

150ml water

100ml passionfruit pulp, about 6 large passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 160c/fan-forced 140c/325f/gas mark 3. Oil and line a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin. Cream the butter and half the sugar together until smooth and then beat in the remaining sugar and eggs, a little at a time until combined (don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled). Fold in the coconut and flour until smooth and spoon into the prepared tin.

Transfer to the oven and bake 45-50 minutes, covering loosely with foil if the cake begins to brown. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire tray and spike with holes.

Meanwhile, make the passionfruit drizzle. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the passionfruit pulp and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 8-10 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened. Spoon all but a few tablespoons over the cake and let infuse until cold.

Serve the cake in wedges with the yogurt, raspberries and remaining sauce.

Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Makes: 8

200g white chocolate, melted

50g butter, melted

175g digestive biscuits, crushed

grated zest and juice 3 limes

100ml tequila

250g caster sugar

600g soft cheese

250ml cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

Finely grate 50g of the white chocolate into a shallow bowl. Take 8 martini or margarita glasses, dip the rims into cold water and then into the grated chocolate to coat the rims. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the lime juice, tequila and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water), stirring until the chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cheese in a food processor with the tequila lime mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate and cream and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large lain nozzle divide the mixture between the glasses. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Make praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the remaining sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and leave to go cold.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. Spoon onto the set creams and serve at once.

Copyright Food & Travel, 2017

Recipes,  Louise Pickford

Photographs, Ian Wallace

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