a food stylist's blog

Cooking courses and food tours in SW France

At the end of last year I finally managed to set up my first cook club as a prelude to beginning of a new venture I am due to launch over the coming months. This course was set in time for Christmas as it was all about edible gifts, perfect for friends and family as everyone loves to receive a homemade gift.  The morning was a huge success being both informative and practical and everyone went away with heaps of goodies ready to wrap!

Salted chocolate and almond honeycomb

Childhood memories of crunchy bars flood back every time I make this delicious toffee, chocolate and almond honeycomb. Watch the magic happen when you add bicarbonate of soda to your caramel – it is just like volcanic lava bubbling in the pan!


Serves: 4-6

200g caster sugar

5 tbsp golden syrup

1 tbsp water

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g dark chocolate

15-20g flaked almonds

sea salt

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Place the sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the syrup without stirring until it starts to turn golden brown and reaches 150c on a sugar thermometer, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda with a wooden spoon until it foams. Tip onto the prepared tray and leave to cool and set hard, about 30 minutes.emptyname-35

Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, on high for 1 minute. Stir well, return to the microwave and continue to cook for 10 second intervals, stirring each time until melted.Spread the melted chocolate over the honeycomb and scatter with the almonds and optional sea salt. Leave to set.

Using a toffee hammer break the honeycomb into small size chunks.

Trio of chocolate truffle

Truffles and Christmas seem to go hand in hand so we rustled up 3 different flavours Pistachio Praline, Fig and Grand Marnier and Stem Ginger, all coated in a rich dark chocolate and decorated


Makes: 54 truffles

50g dried figs, chopped

1 tbs Grand Marnier or Cointreau

75g caster sugar

2 tbs water

50g pistachio nuts

400ml double cream

25g unsalted butter

500g dark chocolate

25g stem ginger, very finely chopped

1 tbsp stem ginger syrup


400g dark chocolate

1 tbs sliced crystalised ginger

1 tbs pistachio praline

a few silver and gold dragees

Place the figs in a bowl with the Grand Marnier or Cointreau and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Blitz in a food processer until fairly smooth and transfer to a bowl.

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 4-5 minutes until it starts to turn a golden brown. Meanwhile place the pistachio nuts on a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts to cover them all and leave to set. Blitz the toffee in a food processor until finely ground. Reserve 3 tablespoons for the topping and set aside.

Place the cream, butter and chocolate in a saucepan and heat very gently, stirring, until the mixture is melted and completely smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and place on the scales. Divide equally between 3 bowls. Stir the fig mixture into one bowl, the pistachio mixture into a second and the chopped ginger and the syrup into the third bowl, stirring well each time. Chill for about 4 hours until the mixture is firm.

Scoop small teaspoons of each chocolate mixture and roll into balls as round as possible. Place the truffles on baking paper and freeze for 1 hour until firm.


Decorate the truffles. Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper. Place the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the boil touch the water) and stir the chocolate until melted. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.

One at a time skewer the hazelnut praline truffles onto a toasting fork (or cocktail stick) and dip into the chocolate turning to coat thoroughly. Transfer to the baking paper and immediately top a third with pistachio praline, a third with a slice of crystalised ginger and the rest with silver or gold dragees. Leave to set.


a00810pr-limoncello-with-almond-and-aniseed-biscottiFor the grown ups we made a lemon sugar syrup and added vodka, then left this to infuse. After 3-4 weeks you have a lovely fragrant ‘limoncello’ to serve with homemade almond and aniseed biscotti perfect to dip into the lemony vodka!

Makes: approx. 1 litre

6 lemons

750ml vodka

225g white sugar

430ml water

Place the lemons in a large saucepan and cover with boiling water, leave to soak for 1 hour, drain lemons and pat dry. Finely grate the zest and stir into the vodka. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Combine the lemon infused vodka and cooled syrup and pour into 2 clean dry bottles, seal and store in a cool dark place for 1 month, shaking gently from time to time.

Strain the liquid into another clean dry bottle. Chill in the freezer for 1 hour before serving.

Almond and aniseed biscotti

Makes: about 40


75g blanched almonds

2 eggs

125g caster sugar

250g plain white flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp aniseed

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and lightly oil 2 large baking trays. Place the almonds in a baking tin and bake for 5-8 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool and roughly chop half the nuts, set aside.

Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat together for 5 minutes until pale and thick – ribbon stage. Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and add to the mixer with the aniseed and chopped almonds. Beat lightly to form a soft, slightly sticky dough, then beat in the whole almonds.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and roll into a 7.5 x 30 cm flattened log. Transfer to one of the prepared baking trays and bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the oven and reduce the temperature to 150c/130c fan-forced.

Using a serrated knife cut the biscuit dough into 2 mm thick slices and lay flat on the baking trays. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Chilli caramel cashews

If you don’t fancy a biscotti with your limoncello or you want something a little saucy to serve with Christmas drinks you really must try my chilli salted cashew nuts. Raw cashews are coated with a sticky glaze of honey, butter, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Very very moorish!

Serves: 6-8


25g butter

3 tbs clear honey

1 tsp salt

½ tsp smoked paprika

a pinch chilli powder

2 tbs water

2 x 150g pkts raw cashew nuts

Melt the butter in a frying pan and then add the honey, salt, paprika, chilli powder and water and bring to the boil. Add the nuts and stir-fry for 5 minutes until glazed and golden brown.emptyname-29

Transfer the nuts to a lightly oiled baking sheet and set aside to cool. Tap nuts gently to separate them and serve with drinks.

Categories: Home

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.   


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.


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.


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.


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




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


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


 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.

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


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


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



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.

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


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.







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

%d bloggers like this: