Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Menu for Hope 2007

Around this time of year, every year, while most of us (myself included) are busy thinking about our Christmas shopping lists, Pim of Chez Pim reigns over the fundraising raffle that is Menu for Hope. 2007 marks for fourth year that food bloggers (and others) the world over donate items for an online raffle. Most of the gifts are food related but the odd non foodie gift makes it's way in. However, this isn;t a raffle just for the sake of it. Money spent on tickets goes to the World Food Programme (WFP); last year's raffle raised over $60,000 for the WFP. This year we've been allowed to earmark the money for a specific programme, a school feeding program in Lesotho.

Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world and the U.N. describes 40% of the population as 'ultra poor' and cannot afford basic supplies. The country has had its worst drought in nearly 30 years and the WFP estimates that 410,00- out of a population of only 1.9 million- will face basic food shortages. It is estimated that malnutrition in Lesotho claim the lives of one in 12 children before they reach the age of five. 56% of the population live on less then $2 per day. The school feeding programme provides a nutritious meal to almost 150,000 children every day.

This year, children from Lesotho schools will be photo-blogging alongside us and bringing their stories to an international audience.

So, why am I bringing this up on my blog? Well in addition to wanting to support a good cause, Johanna and Jeanne (the UK hosts) have asked me to participate. I had wanted to take part last year but was about to go on holiday so I jumped at the chance to do some good during the season of giving.

I've teamed up with my buddy Clare (formerly of Lemon Soul but I'm working on bringing her back!) to bring a couple of prizes to the fold that you will want to purchase a raffle ticket for.

Behind door number one-
A Taste of Mexico - Bring out your inner Mexican with this spicy little care package. This will bring a smile to anyone missing home or that lovely holiday you had in Mexico. It included a selection of Mexican treats from my personal box of Mexican tricks that I replenish when I go home. Included in this package are a collection of dried chiles, dried Mexican Oregano, a tin of tomatillos (great for salsa), a tin of chipotle peppers (so many uses, so little time), some El Pato sauce (a back up enchilada sauce in many a home) and I will also throw in half a dozen corn tortillas (the real deal- I don't share these with just anyone!) plus to drink you get Abuelita hot chocolate and dried hibiscus flower used to make the drink Jamaica. Suggestion recipes for all the ingredients will be included too. This prize is for the UK and Europe only.

And behind door number two-
Tea for Two - Are you a homesick Brit? Do you miss Marmite on toast or a cup of proper tea and a good ol' Chocolate Hob Nob? Then this is for you. Clare and I have started a collection of a few British favourites and we will give you another £20 to spend in the shops so you can add HP sauce, Colman's english mustard or a few bars of Dairy Milk t(or Sherbert Dib Dab to take you back) to the shopping list that YOU give us. Please bear in mind that they need to be items that we can legally ship into your country and please remember that we will also have to cover the cost of shipping so not too many glass bottles!

Hopefully this little treasure trove of delights has whetted your appetite and made you eager to buy a raffle ticket. The ticket office CLOSES on DEC 21st. A link for all the prizes and to the donating site is here.

Remember that this is for a good cause, the $10 you spend will go to feed a child. And don't forget- your giving may well get you some receiving!

If you have any questions, leave a note and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy Holidays!

Xochitl xx

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My new obsession-smoked oatcakes

Yesterday I nipped into my local Waitrose to pick up a few bits to get myself through yet another Post-Christmas party hangover (this one had the best food yet so it was well worth it). One of the hosts is Irish and on our cheese plate was a wedge of Cashel Blue- an Irish blue cheese. I had seen it in the shops before but I'm so enamoured with French blues that I get sidetracked and forgo most British blue cheeses. The exception being glorious Stilton that each Christmas I sneak a wedge from Neal's Yard to my Father-in-law who is barred from having in the fridge. His eyes light up when we sneak into a corner, drinks in hand to devour it without getting caught.

So after completely enjoying the Cashel Blue, I was having withdrawals and went to buy some and nipped down the cracker aisle to get some Carr's Water Biscuits when something caught my eye. Ditty's Irish Smoked Oatcakes. So I gave them a try and now I'm hooked. The package says it's 'handmade with rolled oats from County Armagh and smoked by Frank Hederman at the Belvelly Smoke House, County Cork.' The oatcake triangles are thicker that other ones on the market and at the initial bite are slightly sweeter that other ones I've had. You get a soft hit of smoke at the start but it's the after taste where you get the deeper hit of smokiness.

It went well with my Cashel Blue (I have yet to try it with a slice of cheddar) as it adds another dimension to your plain ol' cheese and biscuits and I find myself eating them plain too. If you see it at a shop near you- try it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Summer of Food Part 1

The summer, by which I mean the summer months as there was a distinct lack of sun here this summer, has flown by. A lot of my summer has been spent eating my way round London, Europe and California. So in place of a post with a recipe, I'll summarise my summer adventures and recommendations if you plan on hitting any of these places soon.

While on a long weekend in Italy on Lake Garda, we took a ferry ride to a quaint town on the southern half of the lake called Salo. We got there just as places we shutting up after lunch but we managed to find one little place that was still open. I didn't have a notepad on my so I can't remember exactly what we had but I do remember fantastic pasta with duck ragu that The Boy had and while I had a perfect rack of lamb.

Osteria dell' Orologio, Via Butturini 26/A, 25087 Salo, Italy
Tel: (+39) 0365 290158

In need of sun, we headed off to France. Not in the mood to deal with airports, we decided to road trip it down to the Languedoc region. Yes it is a long drive but we broke it up. It is a beautiful drive as you start to realise how diverse the French countryside is with it's changing scenery from the North to the South. The first rest stop was in the town of Tournus in Burgundy which lies along the river Saone. I found a reasonably priced (60-70 euros a night) basic hotel through Logis de France. It was a French friend who suggested the site and explained it as decent, reasonably priced hotels where you'll be able to get a good meal. We stayed at Aux Terrasses which had an adequate room and the kind of restaurant where you wonder if it will be good but when you realise that it's full of more locals than hotel guests you know you're in good hands. It was traditional French fare with flourishes of haute cuisine. Let's just say that the restaurant bill was twice the price of our room but we ate well, were able to linger and drink some fab Burgundy wines by the half bottle.

Aux Terrasses, 18 Avenue du 23 janvier, 71700 Tournus, France
Tel: (+33) 03 85 51 01 74

The next pitstop was Villneuve-les-Beziers, a small town of 3000, in Languedoc. When I mentioned to Johanna (aka The Passionate Cook) that I was going to that region, she immediately gave me a recommendation of a place to stay. She was adamant that at the very least we had to go for a meal. All I can say is THANK YOU JOHANNA! We loved La Chamberte. When you pull up, you don't really know what to expect. Once you get inside, the first sight is a courtyard garden with a couple of loungers and the odd cat lounging in the sun.

A converted wine storehouse, you walk into a large dining room and realise that they mean business when it comes to eating as the place only sleeps ten. Before I wax lyrical about the food, I should cover the rooms. Ours was a generous sized (comfy) double bed, there was air-conditioning (divine when it's 35-40C heat). It's the kind of place to head for when you need to get away from it all- the only TV is tucked away int he communal living room up stairs so there's no distractions and you can read peacefully in the sun for hours or you can pet one of the three cats that rule over the joint (or you can go for stroll to the Canal du Midi and hire a boat and cruise up and down).

I was excited to learn that it was a one menu kinda place. I had forgotten where I was and that it was a Friday when the lovely waiter told us what was on the menu. Fish, fish and fish. The Boy was happy as Larry but as someone who's not super keen on fish, I was gutted (no pun intended). As there was really nothing else in the kitchen, when in Rome and all that, I gave in. Starter was home cured salmon and blinis faites maison (homemade blinis) served with peppered creme fraiche and a simple green salad. The salmon wasn't too fishy, with an almost hammy, meaty texture. The saltiness was well balanced by the creme fraiche and the salad. The main dish was a fish tagine- a white fish (I can't remember what it was) served with couscous (they were large and reminded me almost of farro or barley). There was a choice of equally delicious desserts. Plus you've got to love a place that if you can't decide if you want red or white, you'll more than likely be given a bottle of each. Bruno, one of the owners, goes table to table halfway through the meal to make sure that everything is ok and to chat.

We loved it so much that we went back for dinner another night as it was near the house we rented (you don't have to be staying there to eat in the restaurant). Bruno and the waiter remembered us and greeted us as if we were regulars and sat us at our same table on the terrace. We're trying to figure out when we can go back for a weekend getaway.

La Chamberte, Rue de la source, 34420 Villeneuve-les-Beziers, France
Tel: (+33) 04 67 39 84 83

More on France, California and London to follow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The best biscuits in the world? Quite possibly yes.

It was The Boy's birthday and keeping with the tradition of "I book, he buys" (he doesn't have the patience to wait on hold after a dozen calls, whereas I am more inclined to do just about anything to not have to buy my dinner when the choice is between me or him to pay), I scored a table at one of our favourite restaurants, Locanda Locatelli.

Ever since our first meal there, I have been obsessed with the amaretti biscuits that are served with coffee. When I say obsessed I don't mean in a "Mmm that was tasty maybe I'll have them again one day", I mean in a "I rushed home looked up the recipe in the Made in Italy cookbook and when I rang up before my next reservation asked if I could buy some" kind of way (The restaurant very kindly had prewrapped some and brought them out when we left. Needless to say we got some confused looks from people.). I majorly crave them. Part of the obsession came from not being able to find apricot kernels that the recipe calls for- I was determined to find these damn things! Lots of phoning around proved fruitless- no one sold the kernels. I could buy them on the internet but how would I know if they were the right ones since I hadn't the slightest idea what an apricot kernel looks, smells or tastes like.

Me and The Boy's next trip there came and who should be sat next to me but Mrs. Locatelli. That got me thinking. If she was here, where was he? A few minutes later, dressed in his whites was the main man. I (quietly) squealed like a teenage girl. Fortunately, The Boy shared my glee as it meant that perhaps Mr. Locatelli himself has shaved the truffle on his gnocchi (that's what the Italians call it but he and I refer to them as "Pillows of Happiness"). I kept one eye on him all night (the other was glued to every morsel that I ate). All night The Boy ribbed me asking if I was going to ask about the apricot kernels. I hemmed and hawed, did I have the guts to go up and start chatting to him? I'm not usually a star f*cker- I never wander up to celebs and ask for an autograph. It's not my style (although Sven and Nancy Dell Olio were there that night and I really wanted to tell her that she's much prettier in real life and looks nothing like a drag queen).

Another meal came to an end and we decided to have a nightcap. A couple of Bellinis later, I sauntered the two steps to the bar and asked if he could answer a question for me. Looking a bit bemused he said ok. I launched into the amaretti biscuit dilemma. I think he finally realised that I wasn't a stalker. He offered to give me some kernels and I replied that it wasn't necessary, all I wanted to know was where do I get these things.

After a twenty minute discussion on the virtues of said biscuits, he said he would get me a few so I knew what to look for. I nearly shed tears of joys when, the next day while determined to make my own, I realised that he sent me home with the exact amount needed to follow the recipe in the cookbook.

He is a very lovely man that Mr. Locatelli.

P.S. A few extra notes. A) My batch were nearly as perfect. B) He suggested going to Middle Eastern grocers to get the kernels. C) He said that you could still make them without the apricot kernels but they do add that little extra something.

Amaretti Biscuits
from Made In Italy

Makes about 35 amaretti


25g roasted hazelnuts
125g blanched almonds
100g apricot kernels
500g caster sugar
120g egg whites
icing sugar for dusting

Crush the nuts and apricot kernels finely in a food processor. Add the sugar and egg whites and process until the mixture all comes together. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag

Line 1 or 2 baking trays with waxed paper and pipe the mixture into rounds on them, spacing them out well. Dust liberally with icing sugar. Leave for 12 hours so that the mixture can dry out slightly. After this time, they will have formed a 'skin'. Pinch the biscuits lightly with the fingers to break this and give a knobbly appearance.

A good half hour or so before you are ready to bake the biscuits, preheat the oven to 180C, gas 4, then bake them for 11 minutes until light golden.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cheat's Ravioli

The challenge: Dumplings for Waiter there's something in my...
The format: Something made of dough and filled
The methodology: Baked, boiled, steamed, poached but not fried
The possibilities: endless

What to make, what to make?!

There are just too many choices. Dumpling are something I love. I planned on making some Chinese dumplings (which I can eat any time of day)- something along the lines of my beloved Chili Pork Dumplings from Royal China. They have that slightly gummy dumpling dough with a garlicky pork filling with a spicy soy sauce. I mop up every last bit of the sauce with anything I can find. I get mass cravings for the little buggers.

Or should I do gyoza with a chicken and chive filling? Same dough, but with one lightly grilled crunchy side with the other with that lovely dough. Something as tasty as the gyoza I order too often from Ramen Seto in Soho. Or what about making Char Sui Bao- Chinese BBQ pork surrounded by pillowy white dough?

After a week of using Waiter there's something in my... as my excuse to live on Asian style dumplings (and telling Johanna, this month's host that I was making Chinese dumplings) I decided against it.

The other thing I have craved like a fiend lately is filled pasta. Usually I have a love hate relationship- I either never want pasta (The Boy's favourite thing in the world) or I cannot get enough of it. Yesterday was one of those days.

I still had some Chinese fresh dumpling pasta in the fridge and I'd heard that you can use it as a quick dough for ravioli (but I have also thought that it seemed a bit dubious an notion). With a few ingredients stashed in the fridge, it was surprisingly quick and easier and while it's not Locatelli pasta, it still felt good to half make something from scratch. It's easy enough to experiment and change the filling around to something that tempts or to decrease or increase the filling quantity. Mine has an artichoke and sundried tomato filling but get creative and see what works for you. Make some sauce if you like or simply brown some butter and drizzle a little on top.

Cheat's Ravioli

Makes 18+ ravioli


1 packet fresh Chinese dumpling pasta- the round shaped pieces
150 g fresh ricotta
3 grilled artichoke hearts (the kind in oil found at the deli counter), roughly chopped
A few olives, roughly chopped
A few sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
20 g Grana Padano cheese, finely grated

small bowl of water

Put a pot of water onto boil while you make the ravioli.

Place the artichokes, olives and sundried tomatoes in a food processor and blitz to a coarse paste.

In a bowl, place the ricotta and fluff with a fork. Fold in the artichoke paste and season to taste.

Place one piece of pasta on a cutting board and place a teaspoon of filling in the center.

Wet one finger in the bowl of water a lightly wet one half of the pasta (but don't wet the filling).

Fold the dry half over and line the edges up. Press the two halves together, pressing the dough around the filling so that any air gets pushed out.

Using the tines of a fork, press against the edge of the pasta to seal the ravioli and will also make it look nice.

Continue the process with the remaining pasta sheets.

Once finished, place them in a pot of boiling water and cook until the float to the top- about 3-4 minutes.

Drain and serve however you like.

If you want to see what others deemed dumpling worthy, click here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A salad to see in spring (even if it's actually wet and gloomy outside)

Before I start I need to apologise for my long, long absence. Some of you that know me away from this blog will know that I have had a rather difficult start to the year and needed some time to withdraw into my shell. I'll save you all from the miserable details but needless to say, for once in my life, solace wasn't found in the kitchen. In fact I stayed further away than I ever have. However in the last few weeks I have slowly tiptoed back in the kitchen making an omelette here, raspberry fool there and finally going the whole hog. Or rather whole leg of lamb for a dinner for eight. And I loved it. The next day I passed hours catching up on food mags and cookbooks that had collected a light layer of dust. But I'm nearly back to my old self and it feels good. It's where I want to be. So sorry to those of you missing your fill of Xochitlcooks. But I'm back and I plan to make up for lost time. On that note...

Oh yes another wet, grey Bank Holiday weekend. I shouldn't have expected anything other than that but after a few days of London sunshine and a sunny, hot, long weekend in Italy my blood was warmed and ready for summer. I had to settle for a salad to remind me of clear skies instead. I can't complain though since it was lovely and fresh and took a whole 10 minutes to make. Sometimes I think I can trick myself into believing the weather is nicer by wearing shorts and a vest in the house while eating summer fare. Occasionally it works, try it. I highly recommend having a BBQ in February- sure one unlikely sod has to bundle up in his normal winter clothes but the rest of you can make believe it's summer when you tuck into burgers fresh from the grill.

Anyway, enjoy the salad.

Broad Bean, Mozzarella and Rocket Salad

Serves 1 (but add more to feed a crew)

Broad beans, 1-2 handfuls*
Rocket, 1-2 handfuls
Fresh bocconcino (small ball size) mozzarella, 3 , quartered
Olives (black or green), a few to garnish
Fresh mint, small handful of leaves cut into ribbons
Prosciutto, 3 slices
Olive oil

Place the slices of prosciutto on a piece of foil on a baking tray under the oven grill until crisp on both sides which should take about five minutes.

While the prosciutto is cooking, get the salad ready.

On a plate, place the rocket, broad beans and mozzarella. Sprinkle the mint on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Add the olives and prosciutto.


*A note on broad beans-
Ever since The Boy had these in the mac and cheese at Fog City Diner in San Francisco, these have become a favourite veg in our house. One reason I like them is that I like the idea of working for my supper. Their pods that you have to break into to free them from their furry little cocoons. The key to broad beans is to remove the outer layer of the bean. The milky green outer layer makes the bean taste a little tough. Remove it and you get the best bit.

The easiest way to peel off the outer layer is to blanch them for one minute in boiling water. Rinse them under cold water and when cool enough to handle, sit in front of the TV and peel away (using your nails or a paring knife to cut through the layer if they don't pop out). I give them one last rinse once peeled to wash off and residue. Eat cold in a salad, toss into a pasta, add to a frittata.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Zucchini Nut Bread...

Or, How to confuse people with courgettes.

With the sun out this weekend I was finally starting to feel like spring could actually be on its way. This means one thing- SPRING CLEAN! I always start with the best intentions but have a short attention span and wind up doing a Winter Clean or an Autumn Clean rather than having my clear out when everyone else does. I sometimes think I'm a bit of a freak because of that but The Boy reminds me that when it is springtime proper, it's much more enjoyable to be out of doors rather than inside dusting lampshades. Fair point.

So I figured I should get cracking now and see what needs using in the kitchen before I start spending my Sunday afternoons sipping glasses of Rose at my local. Flours, spices, nuts- check. In the fridge there were eggs, sour cream, and courgettes that I'd bought with the intention of adding to a pasta but never got round to (mainly because every time I mentioned that as a dinner option to The Boy I was met with a look that screamed, "Are you serious?").

After a look through some cookbooks I settled on Zucchini Bread. While it's not unheard of in the States, and sells alongside Banana Nut Bread in shops, in the UK it gets me more of the "Are you serious?" looks. The last time I made some and took it into work it remained untouched on the treats table before I made a bet with someone. Within ten minutes it was gone and people didn't believe that it had courgettes.

I forgot which recipe I used last time so settled on one from a fundraising cookbook my mother bought when I was in school. Ultimately the recipe was more of an inspiration as I was missing items and had to improvise and created an entirely new recipe that is exactly like that loaf that I wanted to make.

Don't let the idea of courgettes confuse you- this isn't a savoury bread. It isn't as sweet as some I have tasted but it goes well with an afternoon cuppa and is easy, one bowl baked goods to make. You could frost this if you wanted it to be more cake-like (some sort of cream cheese frosting would be tasty) but I prefer it plain and simple.

Zucchini Nut Bread
Makes two loaves

2 1/4 c. cake flour (the original recipe calls for plain flour- this is what I happen to have)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 pinches of nutmeg
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. olive oil (use one that is like in flavour)
4 eggs
2 courgettes (zucchinis), coarsely grated (you need about 2 cups worth)
1 c. walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 c (or a couple of good size handfuls) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 175C.

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, nutmeg, sour cream, oil, eggs and courgettes either by hand or in a stand mixer.

Add the nuts.

Stir in the chocolate by hand.

Pour into two greased and/or lined loaf tins.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes and then remove from tin and finish cooling on a rack.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reggae Reggae Sauce

Ahhh, the power of television. Every now and then you get suckered in by the power of persuasion. A few weeks ago The Boy was watching Dragon's Den when, in a change from the usual cats that pitch ideas for cash, in walks a guitar playing rastafarian. If I remember correctly he was singing, "Put some music in your mouth. It tastes so nice we had to name it twice... hot reggae reggae sauce." Needless to say he won the panel and the public over. If you turned on the radio you'd hear him signing a cheesy jingle that always managed to stick in your head. Always a pushover for a product with a built in theme song, I noticed Reggae Reggae Sauce when I popped into Sainsbury's earlier today (it was also launch day I learned when I turned on the Ten O'Clock news).

Out came the stovetop grill. On went the chicken breasts.

The verdict? It has a sweeter, smokier flavour than I expected. It does have a slight kick from the scotch bonnet peppers but I wonder if it's been toned down to appeal to a wider audience. What I was hoping for was the kick in the ass I get from the sauce on the Jerk Chicken Wings at Mr. Jerk (now known as Jerk City- but it will always be Mr. Jerk in my heart). The label says Jerk/BBQ sauce and it's just that. Would I get it again? Sure. I would pick it over every other nasty commercially produced sugary sweet BBQ sauce that it sits on the shelf with if I need a quick marinade for a barbecue. I hope the product sells well since Levi Roots seems like a genuine, likeable guy who's happy to be bottling his grandma's recipe.

My plan for the rest of my bottle? BBQ ribs. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my...PIE

It's my favourite P word. It makes everything taste better. Saying it puts a smile on your face. Yes dear friends I'm talking about P-I-E. Pie. The thought of it makes my mouth water. So how could I not want to partake in this month's Waiter, there's something in my... event. Deciding to take part was easy, deciding on a pie was a whole other story.

Should it be a sweet pie- apple pie, cherry pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie? Or something savoury- steak and ale pie, fish pie? After hemming and hawing, I remembered a recipe I'd been wanting to try in Gordon Ramsay's Secrets cookbook- Claridges chicken pie. I had thought about it for ages but stayed away as it seemed an rich and extravagant pie. In the end I decided that if I halved the recipe it wouldn't go straight to my hips.

How was it? Lush and creamy and oniony and bacony and chickeny. And yes it was very rich so I recommend serving with some undressed salad greens to cut the heaviness of it. Definitely not a chicken pie for everyday but it would be impressive for a wintery dinner party.


If you want a full pie round up, click here to see who else had pie in their eye.

Claridges chicken pie
from Gordon Ramsay's Secrets

Serves 4 as a main dish

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 120 g each
125 g baby onions
500 ml chicken stock (the book gives a recipe for the homemade stuff but for the sake of time I used a stock cube)
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
200 g pancetta or good smoked bacon, in one piece
100 g butter
250 g shemigi mushrooms, or baby button mushrooms
100 ml dry sherry
200 ml double cream
2 tsp chopped tarragon
1 tbsp chopped parsley
250 g puff pastry (again the book gives a recipe but I used store bought)
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the chicken into 2 cm chunks. Dip the onions in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins, then remove and peel. Bring the stock to a boil in a shallow pan, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon.

Add the chicken, bay leaf and thyme to the stock. Return to a gentle simmer and poach for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool in the liquid for a minute or two. Strain the stock into a jug, discard the herbs and season the chicken lightly; set aside.

Cut the pancetta in lardons (2 cm strips). Heat a quarter of the butter in a frying pan or wok and stir-fry the pancetta until crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Wipe out the pan.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan. When it starts to foam, add the mushrooms and and stir-fry for about 7 minutes until softened, seasoning to taste.

Pour in the sherry and bubble until well reduced. Return the bacon and onions to the pan and pour in the reserved stock. Bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half. Add the cream and bubble until reduced by a third. Add the chopped herbs and set aside.

Heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out four rounds, using a small saucer as a template. Carefully place the pastry rounds on a large non-stick baking sheet and score the surface in a diamond pattern, using the tip of a small sharp knife.

Brush the pastry with the egg yolk glaze and bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden. Bake for a further 2 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar, to help crisp the pastry. Remove from the oven and slide on to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, add the mushrooms to the sauce and reheat until bubbling (Is it just me or did we not have to remove the mushrooms to start? Was I having a blond moment and missed something?), then add the chicken. As soon as the chicken is warmed through, check the seasoning and divide between warmed serving plates. Top with a pastry round and serve.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chorizo and Kale Saute

I really love Spanish chorizo, the dry salami looking version, not the Mexican uncooked sausage meat kind (that makes a mean scramble). In a salad, with eggs or on its own, it is very, very moreish. To feel like I'm eating it with something nutritious, I cooked it up with some greens. It's quick, easy and there really are no measurements. You can adjust it to serve more or less, as a main or as a tapa. Just looking at the photo is making me crave chorizo all over again...

Chorizo and Kale Saute

My measurements are approximate- use what you have available in the quantity you have to hand.

100 g Spanish chorizo, sliced and halved (it can be hot or mild although I prefer it with a kick)
1/2 onion, diced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved (or 1 tomato diced)
3 handfuls of chopped kale (or other dark, leafy green)
1 handful of sliced mushrooms

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the chorizo and cook a few minutes until the chorizo is browned and has release oil.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the chorizo and put to one side. Leave the oil in the pan to cook the remaining ingredients (it there is an excessive amount, drain some of it).

Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent.

Add the kale and cook for a few minutes or until the kale begins to wilt.

Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until softened.

Serve up with pieces of baguette or other crusty bread.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tea leaves

Au Coeur Des Epices spice stall in Vence, France

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! I swear I have abandoned my blog nor have I forgotten about you. Well if you are nosy like me and are wondering where the hell I've been...here's the last six weeks in a shortish list.

As with many of you no doubt, December was filled with many Christmas parties (which included four in one week at one point), which meant trying to cram four weeks of work into two (with many serious hangovers!), which was followed by a three week break back home in California (during which I managed to fit in a delicious lunch at the Chez Panisse Cafe, make tamales with my father (yes Johanna- I will bring you some when I see you next) and get conned into making Christmas dinner (which entailed making a stuffed and rolled beef roast that seemed to still moo no matter how long it was in the oven).

My immediate return saw me drop of my suitcases which were filled treats from home and have enough time to get back out the door, leaving The Boy at home, to ring in the New Year with a mate at the Kylie concert, which was totally awesome (in spite of my bizarre Mid-Atlantic accent that I've acquired over the years here, I am still a Valley Girl at heart), stumble home for an oh so brief slumber only to wake to be on top form to spend the day with the in-laws, go back to work for a couple of days so I could be inundated with emails and as I write this I am making a mental list of what I need to pack for a wedding I am going to this weekend in the South of France (with a hopefully spectacular dinner at Jacques Maximin).

I woke up jet lagged in the wee hours of this morning longing for a chance to sleep in but knowing that for once jet lag has given me a few hours of solitude to write, I can't complain. Life has been good to me the last few weeks and I intend to enjoy every minute of it before I return to reality, sleep or no sleep.


PS- I promise to put fresh photos of my meal at Chez Panisse up soon but I can't seem to find my camera cable! If you are ever in California, the ONLY place to eat a burger is at In-n-Out!