Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rustic Fruit Tart - Apricot version

These rustic fruit tarts are easy to make and are especially good as we move through the summer and fully tree ripen fruits are progressively available. I’ve started with an Apricot tart because they are what at the peak right now. In a few weeks it will be peaches, then plums and onto fall with pears. The technique of making the tart is the same no matter which fruit you choose to use.


- about 3 lb Apricots

2-3 cups plain flour

- 6-8 oz unsalted butter (keep very cold)

- ½ cup sugar

- ½ cup powdered almonds

- ½ cup more flour

- a few ounces of ice water

- A pinch of salt


First make your pastry (pate brisee)

Here's how:

  1. Place the 2-3 cups of flour in your food processor. Exact amount depends upon the size of pie. About 2 cups will make a 9" crust.
  2. Cut the cold butter into large pieces. (as in the picture) Place several of them in the processor with the flour & process briefly. Continue until all the butter is used. By now the mixture should look slightly "mealy" if not add more butter.
  3. Add the pich of salt.
  4. With the food processor on start adding the ice water, slowly.
    Add water until the pastry just forms a ball.
  5. Lay out couple of sheets of plastic film & place the ball of party on it. If the pastry is too dry add a bit more water & knead it in. If too wet add more flour & knead it in.
  6. When right, form a ball & wrap the film around it.

  7. Top pic is just out of processor. Middle is where it is just kneaded into a ball.Bottom is when the pastry is wrapped in film.
  8. When wrapped in film knead gently.
  9. Place in fridge for 1/2 hour or more.
  10. Onto the next stage.

    1. Cut the Apricots in half & remove the seed.
    2. Throughly mix the sugar, ground almonds & 1/2 cup flour together
    3. Turn your oven on to a temperature of 190C & place a rack near the top.


-Take the pastry out of the fridge & roll it out as shown. Use plenty of flour to prevent sticking. Roll it to 2-3 inches larger all around than your baking tray.

NOTE: I use an old pizza bottom as can be seen, but any round flat sheet will do . OR, you can just use a cookie sheet & make a roughly square or rectangular tart. That's why I call it rustic.

- Spread the sugar/almond/ flour mix evenly over the crust leaving a generous margin all around.
- Place the apricots around the edge in a ring, then an inner ring until the base is covered. Add a second layer closer to the center.
- Carefully fold the pastry up over the apricots pinching it at intervals to keep it up.
- Make any repairs needed. You would, if possible, like to keep all of the juices inside.
- Brush the folded up pastry with a bit of water then sprinkle with sugar.

Your tart is now ready for the oven.

- Place the tart near the top of the oven & bake for 30-40 minutes

- Near the end of cooking you may want to turn on your broiler & brown the top of the tart a bit. Be careful as it can
easily burn.

Remove the tart from the oven & cool on a wire rack.

Serve at your preferred temperature with ice cream or creme fresche or best of all fromage fresche.

Carefully fold the pastry in half & position it on your sheet evenly. Unfold. Make any repairs necessary.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Salmon & Scallop pasta

Here’s a pasta sauce recipe I dreamed up a few years back. It’s a variation on various fish based sauces. In this case the flavour of the salmon is offset by the sweetness of the scallops to make a nice balance. It is very quick & easy to make.

Ingredients: (for 4 generous servings)

- 1 lb Salmon filet

- ½ Lb scallops (I prefer the small bay scallops, but the large ones can be used. If so cut them into pieces.)

- 1 lb pasta (any short shape. Fuseli are my favorite)

- 10 oz full cream

- 2-3 oz grated parmesan

- A small handful of fresh basil or tarragon leaves. (your preference, but not both)

- A bit of olive oil


1) Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. (I like to add a few drops of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt after the water comes to the boil.)

2) Skin the salmon & cut into roughly ½ inch chunks. Cut up the scallops if using the large ones into chunks of the same size.

3) When the pasta water is boiling add the pasta; then: (Note: this is for dry pasta. For fresh alter the timing accordingly.)

4) Heat a bit of olive oil in a large frying pan until hot. Add the salmon chunks and sauté until barely cooked, but slightly browned. 3-5 minutes

5) Add the scallops. Stir well. Cook for no more than 1 minute.

6) Add the cream.

7) When it comes to the boil start adding the parmesan about 1/3 at a time. Stir constantly.

8) When all the parmesan is in check the consistency of the sauce. If too loose then cook for a bit to reduce. When the consistency is right turn the heat down to low.

9) Pasta should be ready by now. Drain it & put it back in the pot. Place the pot on medium heat, stir to drive out any remaining water, then add the sauce to the pasta.

10)Add the basil or tarragon leaves. Stir well.

11)Scoop the pasta out onto warm plates & serve immediately.

12)Extra parmesan is nice & you can keep back some leaves & sprinkle them over each servicing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lemon Brulee recipe

This dessert is very light & refreshing. Ideal for summer. It’s easy to make and can mostly be done ahead of time. In fact it needs to be made in three distinct stages. Make the Lemon Cheese the day before; mix the cheese & cream the morning of the day you’ll be serving the dessert & do the brulee just before serving.

Stage #1 Make the Lemon Cheese (Lemon curd? I’ve never been able to tell the difference)


4 lemons

4 eggs lightly beaten

5 level tablespoons of sugar

4 oz butter


1) Zest the lemons (i.e. scrape off the yellow part of the peel) then juice them.

2) Melt the butter in a saucepan.

3) Add the lemon juice, zest and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

4) Over medium low heat place the eggs into the mixture. Stir constantly with a whisk. Watch carefully & as soon as the mixture starts to thicken remove from the heat. Keep stirring. If it’s not thick enough put it back on heat very briefly.
(NOTE: For the faint of heart you can do the heating by placing the saucepan in a bain marie. This is just a larger pan half filled with simmering water. This method is safer as you are less likely to over cook the eggs.)

5) Let the thickened mixture cool and then transfer to a sterilized jar with a sealable lid. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Stage #2 Make the mixture.


All of the Lemon Cheese

About 8 oz full (30-35%) cream


1) Put the cream in a large bowl and whip until stiff.

2) Gently fold the lemon cheese into the whipped cream. (Just like adding the egg whites to a soufflé.) Make sure it is well mixed.

3) Spoon the mixture into whatever serving pieces you will be using. (I use either medium sized ramekins or some tall heavy wine glasses, but any thing that has a wide top will do.) Make sure that you smooth the top of each serving.

4) Place the servings in the fridge until needed.

Variation: You can enhance this dessert by adding in a half of an apricot or peach that has been baked in a medium over (about 150C) for 30 minutes. To do this half fill your container with the cheese & cream mixture, and then gently place your piece of baked fruit on top. Add the rest of the mixture & smooth as before.

Stage #3 the brulee.




1) Bring your desserts out of the fridge and sprinkle the top of each with a nice, but fairly thin coating of sugar. Try to make the coating even.

2) Using a kitchen blowtorch melt the sugar on each dessert to make a brulee topping. (Note: I’ve tried a handy mans blow torch, but they’re too fierce. My sexy little kitchen thing works, but is a bit slow. I’m going to try & find a medium sized blowtorch that model maker’s use. I’m told that they are the happy medium.)

Alternate method: Use the grill (broiler) in your oven. If you’re going to try this way then put you desserts in the freezer about ½ hour before you want to make the brulee. Get the grill very hot. Prepare the desserts as before with the sugar. Place them on a tray & place under the grill. Watch carefully & remove as soon as the sugar melts.

3) Serve immediately. If you used your grill be careful as the top of the containers will be hot.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A tale of three cheeses

Today being Sunday we went to Limogne market as is our habit. The weather wasn't too good so the market was not as crowded as normal for this time of year. I was wandering around trying to keep Rupert, the dog, out of trouble. (earlier a little guy named Jack had bitten his foot. It was all I could do to hold Roop back.) Anyway, I had the time to look more closely at one of the regular stalls & I noticed that Madame was selling some different looking little cheeses. Had to buy some didn't I? All I could tell was that one was cows milk (vache) & the other two were goats milk (chevre).
Here's a picture of them taken later at home. The one at the top left is a chevre as is the one at the top right. The half eaten one at the bottom is the vache.
So, I asked Madame what they were called. She says; "Vache et Chevre". No I say their specific name? "Vache et Chevre" Ok I'm not going to get more. Who made them? 'Mon Marie" Has your husband been making them for a log time? "Oui" How long do you age them? "Quelques semains." She was a bit of a sourpuss so I gave up at that point realising that I wasn't going to get anything out of her. (Unlike the lady I bought beautiful local apricots from. We had a good discussion about pie making & how many I needed for a 10 person pie.)
Got the cheeses home & tried them for lunch my excuse being that I needed open halves for the photography. The Vache was very pungent, a bit dry with a strong aftertaste. Very nice, I'll buy more. The light colored chevre on the left was pretty much what I expected. A nicely aged chevre with great flavor. The darker one on the right was a new taste as it was definitly chevre but had a very peppery after taste. All interesting & all nameless. Such is rural cheese shopping you just never know & there probably really isn't a specific name for any of these cheeses other than the generic. Locally they'll be known as M. xxx'x cheeses or the Mas de Somethingor other cheeses. C'est la vie what?

PS: Rupert enjoyed his little nibbles as well.

7 hour lamb

A bit delayed, but as promised here is the recipe.

Before trying this recipe for the first time please go to the eGullet Culinary Institute ( and read the lesson on cooking meats. It’s very well done and will be of great help.

This is the best way I have ever tried for cooking leg of lamb. The result is delicious and the method is very forgiving. The anchovy part is from the Southwest of France where I live. Don’t shy away from it as the flavor is mild and really adds to the result. Most guests will never guess that the anchovies are what give that wonderful flavor.

Here goes:

A leg of lamb

Tin of oil packed anchovies

A few sprigs of rosemary

Freshly ground pepper

Red wine for deglazing

Cream for the gravy

1) Heat oven to 230C.

2) Remove the leg bone from the lamb or have your butcher do it. This will make carving much easier.

3) Place 2-3 anchovy fillets in the cavity where the bone was then tie up the lamb so that it keeps its shape.

4) Grind some pepper over the lamb then place it in the hot oven for about 15 minutes to brown the outside.

5) Remove lamb from the oven & turn the oven off. Keep the oven door open so it cools as rapidly as possible.

6) Meanwhile cut a series of slashes about ½ inches deep across the top of the lamb. Place an anchovy fillet in each slash.

7) Bruise some of the rosemary by rubbing it between your hands & sprinkle it over the lamb. Place a large intact sprig of rosemary over the top.

8) Check oven temperature. It needs to be at no more than 65C. If it’s higher wait until it is; if already lower place lamb in a roasting pan in the center of the oven. Turn the oven on with the temperature set for 65C.

NOTE: Probably a good idea to test your oven in advance. Some will not maintain low temperatures well. We have one oven that will & one that won’t. Most modern electric ovens will. Gas is problematical.

9) Leave the lamb for the next 7 hours or so. I find that within reason timing over about 6 hours is not critical.

10)About ½ hour before when you want to serve take the lamb out to rest. Just place it on a carving board. Do not cover.

11)Put the roasting pan on your stovetop over high heat. Reduce the pan juices by half then add a generous slug of red wine. Scrape around the pan to get any bits. Reduce this by ½ again. Add cream (quantity depends upon how much gravy you want to make – 8 oz is good.) Bring to the boil & reduce just enough to get a bit of thickening.

12)Carve the Lamb & put the gravy in a boat. Serve.

Guaranteed delicious.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Eating Light this week

After giving a dinner party for 10 on Wednesday We've been taking it easy foodwise. One of our guests was a well known British Chef whise parents are neighbors. He praised my croutons! Humm, damning with faint praise? Anyway we had Gazpacho (see below), 7 hour leg of lamb with anchovies & rosemany accompanied by baked roots with truffle oil & roast ratituille, cheeses and Lemon Brulee with baked apricot. Sounds a lot, but nothing was heavy & all the plates became empty & there were no leftovers except some cheese. I will post recipies for everything as time allows.
Anyway, yesterday was tuna sandwiches & cheese. (tuna, mayonaise,chopped cornichons, chopped shallot all mixed & served on good French bread with tomato slices & lettice.) Today it's going to be BBQ'd Toulouse sausages & a nice simple salad.
Been doing a big clean up after the mother of all thunderstorms. Lost 5 trees & up the road in the village we lost three really big plane trees. We'd been asking for rain, but this was way too much. The supposedly inefficient French had everything cleared up in a day. Amazing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Gazpacho - The easy way.

  • Always a good dish for the hot days of summer. There are umpteen versions most of them delicious. This is my version which has the virtue of simplicity.
At the left are the ingredients which are:
  • Ripe tomatoes; 4 in this case. Use more if you like. I've cut down because my wife likes a 'less tomatoey' gazpacho.
  • Onions: 3 medium sized. They're red here, but any mild will work. Sweet Walla Walla's, Maui's .... will need extra vinegar for balance.
  • Cucumbers; 3 large 'English' type.
  • Bell peppers; 2. I've used green & Yellow for the color, but any combo you like is OK.
  • Sherry vinegar; to taste.
  • Tobasco sauce; to taste. The small jar at the front is a piminate, but I decided against it after using a sample; too hot. Need to practice with this as the flavor is good.
  • Salt, to taste.
  • Stock; powder or already made, about 1 liter I used vegtable, but chicken works very well.
Here's the method - step by step. ( May be a bit tedious for experienced cooks, but I want a rank novice to be able to make this recipe. Thus all the notes & comments. My apologies to those who get bored.)

Make the stock or heat up the already made stock. Bring it to the simmering point. Turn the heat off.

Peel & roughly chop the onions as in the photo.
Put the onions in the stock and puree. (I use a Braun multiMix, but you can use a food processor instead. If using a food processor then place the onions in the bowl along with a cup or more of the stock. Process then transfer to a large bowl. You will repeat this process with the cucumbers and the tomatoes. Once all three are processed add any remaining stock & process the mixture again in batches and transfer to the bowl you'll use for serving. As we progress you'll see why I use the multiMix.)

Peel, deseed & roughly chop the cucumbers. Chop as at the left. Place the in the stock & onion mix and puree. (if using a food processor repeat the step as described above.

Peel, core, deseed & roughly chop the tomatoes. (to peel tomatoes bring a pan full of enough water to cover the tomatoes to a boil. Place a couple of tomatoes in the boiling water for about one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. Peel as soon as they're cool enough to handle) See picture below.
Place in the pot & puree along with the stock, onions & cucumber.

Deseed & devein the peppers. (to do this cut around the stem & remove the seed pod. Cut pepper in half. Gently smack the pepper, cut side down, on your cutting board to remove any remaining seeds. With a sharp knife carefully cut along the white veins to remove them.
Cut pepper into a jullien (long thin strips) the long side of the peppers. Line up some of the strips & cut crossways to make a small dice.

Do a final bit of pureeing to make sure there are no bit bits left. Then add the pepper dice. Pictures below show what it should look like. At left the tomatoes have just gone in. At right pureeing is finished & pepper dice added.

Next add the sherry vinegar. You can use virtually any type of vinegar you like, although I'd stay away from Balsamic or rasberry for gazpacho, I like to add a bit of honey vingar, but it can be hard to find. Experiment on small batches of soup.
Whatever type you use add a bit at a time until you like the taste. (It will probably take more than you expect.) Also add you salt at this point. Keep stirring & tasting until you're satisfied.

Now add the tobasco sauce. Be very careful here if you add too much it's hard to recover. Keep adding a few drops at a time until you just start to get a bit of a bite on your tongue.

The finished gazpacho is pictured below. To serve make some croutons with garlic & herbs de Provence. Yummy!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Eat, relax & have fun.

I was thinking today as we had lunch at a friend’s house about how good things are when you can just relax. Here we were 4 couples, all retired, all comfortable with each other as couples and comfortable with each other as a group. We took 3 ½ hours for our meal,

We started with cold cucumber soup with mint & spring onions. This was followed by Salmon Florentine en crout with a mustard dill sauce accompanied by a fresh peas, green beans & broad bean mixture and steamed new potatoes. 5-6 cheeses to sample followed then lemon meringue pie for dessert. We had a Chardonnay from Pays d’oc with the meal and some Cava with the dessert. A lovely meal that was nicely done and with grace.

There was lively & good conversation throughout. This retirement lark is pretty good. The French have an organization called the ‘troisiemes’; this is the third age (we oldies) we’ve joined since every time we see the group in a restaurant or on an outing they always seem to be having a lot of fun. It will be very good for our French language skills as well.

But I was thinking today that people of our age seem to be having as much, if not more, fun than younger people. Was it always this way? Or has better health and affluence changed things? Good question, but meanwhile I’m just going to continue enjoying myself.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Out of date, but catching up!

I’m feeling a bit out of date after yesterday’s post about dieting. I did some more searching today & found that there’s a whole Montignac method movement and that Michael has written several more books.

The best place to start is in his website which is:

This will give you a lot of the information you need before deciding to buy one of the books. Also I found out that there was a nice thread from Bleudauverne on eGullet. Worth reading

Even though I was out of date the principles haven’t changed & I still highly recommend this way of eating. Now, if I could only find the equivalent for my failing other faculties I’d be in business.

Other ramblings

Went down to Montauban today with a couple of friends. Donald is another Yank who lives nearby, but only spends 3-4 months a year here in France. He has a bad knee; it never wholly recovered from surgery earlier this year in the states. Anyway DR. Jean (you will hear more about him in this blog.) had set him up for an MRI scan at the hospital. Annabel came along because D’s French is pretty non-existent. The MRI revealed all kinds of things, but since D isn’t in the French medical system they expected to pay for the whole procedure. They did; 69€ about $85. Try that in the states. The French have the most wonderful medical system yet spend around 8% of GNP on it. We spend 14% of GNP and our system stinks. Maybe Georgie & Hillary should come and have a look. Enough politics, Yank.

Anyway afterwards we went to have lunch at a Spanish steak house, one of the few places you can get really good beef around here. (See my ranting in the eGullet France forum on this subject: ‘Where’s the beef’) Our steaks as well as the rest of the meal were excellent. Talking to the owner afterwards I found out that he gets his beef from Germany. Exactly what Ptipois had said on the forum. I’m going to follow this up, but I must say that I find the range & wealth of knowledge on eGullet formidable.

Enough for now. I'll tell you about Dr. Jean at another time.

PS: D’s going to have his knee fixed here next week even though he could get it done for free in the states.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Recipe: Nicoise Salad

Here’s my version of Salad Nicoise. Its only one of many available & even though I think it’s reasonably authentic I’m sure there are plenty who would argue the ingredient list ferociously.

In any case we like it and as we are approaching full summer all of the ingredients are coming into their full glory.

Ingredients: for 8 hungry people.

4 red onions

1 red bell pepper

Pannier of cherry tomatoes (about ½ lb or 500g) a combo of red & yellow is nice if both are available.

1 lb (500 grams) green beans

1 lb (500 grams) new potatoes (nice small ones by preference. In France rattes are ideal; in the Uk Jersey’s)

8 eggs

Tin of anchovies, oil packed

3 medium tins of tuna, line caught & oil packed.

1/3 Lb of black Nicoise olives, pitted is nice, but you’ll probably have to do it yourself.

Vinaigrette (1 part Sherry vinegar to 4 parts olive oil. add 1 more part of Dijon mustard, a good dose of herbs de province, salt & pepper. Ajust to taste. Or use your own favorite recipe.)


1) Cut off the root end of the onions then peel. Slice very thinly across the layers, preferably with a mandolin, but can be done (very carefully) with a very sharp knife.
Toss the onion slices with your fingers so they separate into individual rings then place them along the center of an oval or round platter. Set aside.

2) Cut off the stem & veins of the red pepper, get rid of all seeds, then slice long ways to make a julienne about 1/4 “ wide (6 mm).
Set aside.

3) Make the Vinaigrette. Set aside.

4) Cut the cherries tomatoes in half. Set aside.

5) Boil the eggs until hard; about 6-8 minutes. When boiled put the pan under a cold water tap & cool them off. When cool carefully peel & cut into halves length ways. Set aside.

6) Top & tail the green beans. Place into boiling water, when the water comes back to the boil leave for 2 minutes before draining & plunging into cold water. (All this is to end up with beans that are still crunchy & bright green.) Set aside.

7) Scrub the potatoes well, but don’t peel. Cut into large bite sized chunks. (Leave the small ones whole.) Have half of you Vinaigrette ready. Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they seem soft enough when you stick the point of a knife into them. Remove from heat, drain & as soon as dry put into a bowl & pour the Vinaigrette over them. Toss gently to cover. Set aside.

8) Pit the olives, if necessary. Set aside.

9) Open the anchovy & tuna tins.

We are now ready to assemble the salad. Here’s how:

a) ‘Fluff up’ the onions in or along the center of the platter.

b) Upend the cans of tuna on top of the onions. Use the oil. Use a fork to get the tuna out of the can & too spread it over the onions a bit.

c) Spread the potatoes evenly around the edges of the onion.

d) Spread the green beans around on top of the potatoes.

e) Same with the tomatoes.

f) Same with the pepper.

g) Place the hard boiled eggs, cut side up, around the perimeter of the platter.

h) Put an anchovy fillet on each egg half.

i) Have a last look for appearances. It won’t alter the taste, but it may as well look pretty.

j) Finally, drizzle the rest of your Vinaigrette over the whole salad. If, like me, you love the anchovies you can also drizzle some of their oil over as well.

That’s it! Lots of steps, but all of them easy to do. Serve with good bread & a robust white wine.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A foodie diet that works.

Diets and how to lose weight are always topics of great interest to most of us who love to eat. Currently there is much in the press about obese America & overweight Britain. South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers and on and on. While I pretend to no expertise and would (like all diet gurus) advise you to check with your Doctor, I will make a recommendation.

Dine Out and Lose Weight: The French Way to Healthy Eating by Michel Montignac. The book seems to be out of print now, but you can buy copies by going to: It is worth the effort.

My wife bought it for me about 15 years ago after reading an article about it in the London Times. At that time I was traveling around Europe weekly from our UK base and eating very well indeed. I was at my highest weight ever. I went on Montignac’s diet, lost 8 pounds in the first week and 30 pounds over the next couple of months. All of my friends who tried seriously had similar results. A side benefit was that my energy level increased and stayed pretty constant throughout the day as my body adjusted to the new system.We had a couple of diabetic friends who tried it and were over the moon with their now constant energy levels.

The greatest thing about this book is that its techniques are sustainable. It is more a method and style of eating than a diet. The only times in the last fifteen years when my weight has gone up have been when I was knowingly way off the diet. For example; two trips to the states and a heavy holiday season left me at 207 pounds in mid-January this year. Back onto Montignac and I’m down to 188 and have been for over a month. I’d like to lose another 5 pounds, but seem to be stuck at the moment.

So, what’s the secret? In a nutshell, no simple carbohydrates. Sounds & is a bit like Atkins, but this is far more balanced and sustainable. You have to read the book to get all of his logic about glycerin indexes and so forth, but practically you cut out: white flour, sugar and potatoes. (There are some other minor simple carb foods as well) You eat pretty much everything else. We eat lots of vegetables and salads all year round accompanied by all kinds of meat & fish. We, especially me, eat lots of cheese and we drink wine. It’s not at all hard to stay on and it’s not about quantity. We eat full sized meals. You do need to cut out or at least severely cut back on wine during the weight loss phase. No beer, of course. Once at the weight you want to be you go into the maintenance where you make choices like; do I have another glass of wine? Or do I have that sweet dessert instead?

Enough preaching! It works for us and you can still exercise all of your culinary skills, dine well and be healthy. Give it a go.

I’d love to hear from anyone else who eats this way or has tried the diet.

Try harder please, an almost there restaurant

Here’s an example of trying, but not quite getting it right. Earlier this week we were invited to lunch at a highly reputed restaurant some miles away. The location is superb, a chateau set in the middle of its own vineyards and beautifully restored. The dining room was very nicely done.

We all went for the menu fixe. First mistake; the waiter made it obvious that he was impatient as one of our party made up her mind as to which plat to have. Then, the amuses arrive; three of them & very pretty. #1 is a beetroot puree over?? Couldn’t tell what it was & the flavor combination didn’t quite work. #2 was a three layer concoction that even the waiter couldn’t explain. Again the flavors were not quite right. #3 was delicious, a very light mousse (I guess foam if I’m being trendy.) of Fromage fraiche with ground almond & cilantro.

The entrée was a wonderfully prepared cold cucumber soup. It was served in beautiful narrow based bowls. OOH! Ah! Herein was part of the problem. Each serving had a long curled up strip of cucumber in the middle, sort of in a well, of the bowl. Ever try to cut cucumber with the edge of a spoon? Not easy & we all struggled or just left it. Pity as the dish was good.

In the midst of this the waiters started serving around the table rather than ladies first as they should have done.

The main was lightly smoked grilled magret over carrots & a whole meal wafer. Very nice indeed, but spoiled by an indescribable sauce that just did not go with the duck.

Cheeses were good.

Dessert was good.

So, good, potentially excellent, food that looked better than it tasted. Staff that wasn’t quite fully trained. A shame as the competition is fierce & we won’t go back again. ITT-S!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Recipe: BBQ Peppers & Brie

Peppers & Brie

I’ve been making this for many years now and it never fails to please. It has the virtue of being about the simplest recipe that I know of.


Long green irregularly shaped peppers. (These are called Anaheim peppers in the states. Haven’t found a name in France other than poivrions vert allongé and I’ve seen them in the UK, but don’t have a name) Buy 1 or 2 per person.

Brie. Any old brie doesn’t have to be the best. Buy about 1 to 11/2 oz per pepper (25 -40g)


1) Let the brie warm to room temperature for a couple or more hours. Ideally it should be soft, but not runny, but the consistency isn’t vital.

2) With a sharp knife cut the peppers in half the long way. (Note: when buying it helps to choose the straightest peppers you can.)

3) Cut out the little seed bit just in from the stem. Remove all seeds.

4) Get your barbeque going. Heat to medium hot.

5) Cut the Brie into long strips which will sort of fit into the ‘pockets’ of the pepper halves.

6) When the BBQ is hot place peppers, CUT SIDE DOWN, on the grill.

7) When the edges of the peppers start to blacken turn the peppers over so they are CUT SIDE UP.

8) Place strips of brie into the pepper pockets.

9) Grill until the Brie melts & bubbles. This won’t take very long.

10) Remove from grill. (A pancake flipper works best for this.) Serve immediately.

The sharpness of the pepper combined with the sweetness of the brie is a great combination.

initial ramblings

Ok, first post to the ITT-S blog. What’s it about? And why am I doing this? Who am I to do it anyway?

It’s about food and eating and having respect for ingredients, preparation and enjoyment of a good meal. I get upset with those who merely ‘eat to live’; those who can’t be bothered, and those who mangle ingredients out of all recognition. To balance that opinion I’m also not too happy with those who make a fetish out of being clever & complicated with their food. Balance is good. Care is good. Respect is good. Simple is good.

Thus, the It’s the Taste Stupid name of this blog. It really is the taste that counts. Appearances are nice and its sometimes fun to see a ‘work of art’ appear on your plate, but if the taste isn’t there forget it. I think all of the truly great chefs understand that as do the best of home cooks. In any case I’ll be commenting in more detail along these lines as I & this blog go forward. Hopefully, if anybody reads it, we’ll get some strong opinions coming out.

Another of my goals in the blog is too ‘practice what I preach’ by publishing recipes that I like too cook & serve. It is my belief that good cooking can be made very simple so that anyone with an interest can do it without lots of training. Therefore I will try to make all of the recipes as easy to follow as possible. The end product may seem complicated at times, but the steps followed to get there are simple and easy.

Why me? Ego, time to do it and fun. I think I have something to say and being retired I have time to say it. I enjoy cooking, writing, taking pictures and playing around on the web. I’m fortunate in that I spent many years traveling all over the world on business, eating at great restaurants. I’ve been cooking since I was about 8 years old and I have access to superb ingredients here in France. I love cooking & sharing meals with friends; the blog is, perhaps, a vicarious way of doing that.

So, I hope you will enjoy reading this as I go along. I fully expect to enjoy writing it.

First recipe to follow shortly.