Savoury Clafoutis

DSC_1736.JPGAccording to Rachel Khoo, savoury clafoutis are ze very fashionable dish in Paris. I don’t know how accurate Rachel’s trend monitoring is, but the idea made immediate sense for me.

Instead of sugar and apples, pears or cherries, use savoury ingredients such as goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes, girolle mushrooms, Swiss chard, a pinch of rosemary, a spoonful of mustard and a drizzle of chili oil.

Or, if you want to think of in in another way, you can think of it as a quiche without the base. To compensate for the lost support offered by the shortcrust base, you add two spoon full of white flour to the mix – e voila! a savoury clafoutis. Even less work than a quiche, and just as good (but a bit heavier). Here’s how it goes:

Make 1 1/2 pint of a mix from crème fraiche, yogurt, milk, double cream. I suggest using at least 50% milk so that it doesn’t get too heavy. You can also cheat with a small amount of baking soda. Add 4 eggs and one extra yolk.

Whisk in two tablespoons white flour, a teaspoon of good mustard, salt and black pepper to taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line your favourite baking dish with baking paper. I use a 28cm dish, 3cm deep.

Find all suitable leftovers: Dice or crumble goats cheese, blue cheese, Reblochon or Gruyere cheese. Add cherry tomatoes, olives if you like, Swiss chard. Asparagus might work, roasted peppers most certainly will. Peeled cherry tomatoes will keep it light and moist. Be inventive! Add a sprinkle of rosemary, then pour the batter over it.

Shake the dish a few times to let trapped air escape, then decorate the top with some slices of tomato. I add a generous drizzle of chili-infused olive oil, but that might not be to everyone’s taste.
Bake at 180C for approximately 45 minutes. The time varies with the depth of your dish and the temperature of the batter when you start. It is ready when it has risen over the entire diameter of the baking dish, bubbles a little (mostly towards the edges), and has a lovely golden colour.

Remove from the heat, and let cool down in stages: first, leave on the counter, in the tray, for about 10 minutes. Then lift the whole thing out of the tray, and put it on a cooling rack. Another 10 minutes later, see if you can remove the paper, so that the bake doesn’t get water-logged from the trapped steam.

Serve lukewarm or cold. It’s lovely, it’s like a quiche, but it doesn’t even require making a base: A Saturday lunch winner!


DSC_0028 (2).JPGReal men don’t eat quiche. All right. Fine by me. I am a quiche-eater, guilty as charged. Not a real man, according to Bruce Feirstein, but I know how to make the finest and most rewarding quiche (and enjoy eating it).

A quiche is quick to make, and always scores with the womenfolk. What are you waiting for?

Take one roll of deep-frozen rolled-out shortcrust pastry, available in most shops. Your own base will be lighter, crumplier, better in short:

Put 200g white wheat flour, 100g soft salted butter and one medium sized egg into a bowl and whisk (using an electric hand mixer or blender) until you have even crumbles, then keep whisking while you add one or two tablespoons of cold water. This transforms the crumble into a homogenous lump.

Spread baking parchment onto your worktop. Put the very sticky dough on top and use your fingers to spread it out approximately to the size of your baking dish. Cover with another layer of baking parchment, then finish the job with the rolling pin. Try for an even 3mm thickness.

The baking parchment trick makes handling of the very sticky base a lot easier, and saves time.

Line a backing dish with your base, using a baking parchment as a carrier. I use a 280mm diameter round baking dish, about 25mm deep.

Start the oven to 200C. Prefer top and bottom heat over circulated heat. Weigh the base down wiht pie weights or dried chickpeas. Pre-bake for about 20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Smoked Salmon Quiche

300g smoked salmon, cut in finger sized strips, 150g roasted artichokes or peppers (or both), a small bunch of dill. Just toss everything into the dish in a seemingly random distribution.

Quiche Lorraine

Cut two leeks into 10mm strips. Wash and rinse thoroughly. Fry up 250g of good quality dry-cure bacon or lardons. When done, add the leak, toss around for 30s, then spread the whole lot into the baking dish.


A million of varieties are up for your to make. Mushrooms, spinach and bacon always hits the spot, for example.

… base recipe continued:

Now take 200ml double cream and 100ml milk. Add three free-range eggs (four if tiny), a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1/3 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Half a teaspoon of stock granulates or a small teaspoon of mustard if you like it very savoury, a pinch of saffron otherwise. Allspice to taste. Mix well, and pour over the filling. Optionally, sprinkle one finely chopped fresh red chilli pepper over the top (a nice kick with the smoked salmon quiche).

Shake the baking tray gently to let trapped air escape, and pop into the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Start to watch it after 25 minutes; it might need taking out sooner if it darkens too quickly.
Take out when done. Let cool down for 20 minutes, then remove quiche from tray (just lift it out by the baking parchment), then let cool down on a rack.

Transfer onto serving plate, cut into generous pieces, serve with a green salad and a crispy white wine. Scores every time.


Pudim Flan

DSC_1279.JPGOne of the household favourites, over many, many, years. This delicious pudding is known in Portugal as a pudim flan, in Spain as a caramello, in France as creme caramel. We call it pudim flan, or flan for short.

It’s very easy to make, and totally delicious:
Scrape the seeds from one vanilla pod, and mix well with 125g of castor sugar. Add 4 whole eggs and one extra egg yolk.
Melt 125g castor sugar with two tablespoons of water in a saucepan, then heat the solution on fairly high heat. Try not to do anything, no shaking, stirring, nothing.

The books often suggest that you should heat 1pt milk together with the vanilla pod in a saucepan, remove from the heat just before reaching the boiling point and set aside and let cool down for 10 minutes. I say don’t. Your pudding may not keep as well if you skip this step, but it’ll be so delicious that shelf-life won’t be an issue. Take milk from the fridge. Allow it to warm up a little in the room, especially if you are running your fridge on a cold setting, but use it at still a few degrees less than room temperature. Starting with cold milk leads to an airy flan, light as a feather and milkier in taste. According to our extensive self-experimentation, this makes the pinnacle of flans. A flan fit for a queen!

Prepare a Baine-Marie. Use a tall baking dish such as a 2inch high Pyrex baking dish. Add a kettle of boiling water and six ramekins. We’ve made flan in coffee cups on one occasion, almost anything will do because the heat isn’t all that great, but a fairly heavy porcellain ramekin is preferred over thin anodised aluminum affairs. The thicker wall distributes the heat evenly and allows the temperature to rise slower in the mix.

Preheat the oven to 150C (290F).

Once the sugar turned into a caramel with the colour of dark honey (possibly throwing milk-chocolate coloured bubbles), distribute the caramel among the ramekins. Take care not to engage your bare fingers or tongue, the caramel is at a very high temperature right now. It hurts a lot to lick that spoon!

Finally, pour the milk through a sieve into the egg mix, whisk briefly, then distribute the mix among the ramekins. Cook the whole thing in the oven at 150C for 40 minutes (until the top begins to darken in spots), then remove the ramekins immediately from the water bath and let them cool down.

Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or more. Keeps a few days.

To serve, turn over and resist the urge to add anything.


Mini Cheesecakes

20140627_181135American cheesecakes require no baking, and make for a perfect desert. Never fails to please the crowds, this one.

Just before the American Cheesecake Police gets to my throat, yes, I have seen baked cheesecake in America, too. Anyway, this one is American in style, and does not require baking.

This makes several single-portion cheesecakes, with lots of room for being creative, how’s that?

For a first step, you’d need to find a suitable form to make the cheesecakes in. Cook’s rings are ideal. I have two sets of rings, a 10cm diameter, 4cm tall one, and a narrower, taller one (approximately 65mm diameter, 70mm tall).

The plan is to provide a thin and crumbly biscuit base, topped with an American cheesecake mix, topped with something fruity. The photo shows a nectarine compote. We have also used Strawberries, Raspberries, or a delicious prickly pear compote. The sky is the limit!

For the base, per portion:

One hob-nob biscuit. Ginger biscuits are also very good and provide a slight ginger kick. For a cherry-topped version I used dark chocolate hob-nobs in reminiscence of a black forest gateaux. Just be creative at the biscuit shelf in your local superstore.

A teaspoon of dry bread crumbs and

a nob of soft unsalted butter.

Blitz the biscuits and bread crumbs ingredients in the blender, then swiftly include the butter. I find it both easy and quickly to add the butter with a fork. This makes about one heaped tablespoon of base.

Find a chopping board big enough for all your portions, and small enough to fit into your fridge. Cover it with greaseproof paper, then arrange the cooking rings. Fill each cooking ring with one tablespoon of base, distribute the base mix evenly. Wrap your masher or some other flat headed cylindrical shape with clingfilm, then use this to firm up the bases. Set aside in a cool place.

For the cheesecake mix, per 6 portions:

300g of cream cheese such as Kraft’s Philadelphia,

300g of some nice soft fresh cheese or German Quark, strained.

100g sugar,

Seeds from one pod of fresh vanilla,

Three leaves of gelatine.

Soak the gelatine in a bit of water. Meanwhile, whisk the other ingredients together, then gently melt the gelatine in the Microwave oven and add to the mix. Distribute the mix among the portion cakes, leaving space for the topping.

For the topping, use your imagination.

Strawberries are easiest, just wash and clean them, put the pretty ones upside down onto the cheesecakes and use the not-so-pretty ones to make a thick jam to coat and seal the tops.

Similar procedures apply to other fruit: a fruit topping from soft fruit or from a thick fruit jam. Cover fresh fruit with jam so that it keeps better.

Dark sweet cherries, covered with a cherry glaze (made from cherry juice, sugar and gelatine) worked out pretty well.

A skinned half Apricot, covered with a glaze made from fig jam, lime juice and gelatine, also was a hit.

Cover with cling film and allow to set in the fridge for 2 or more hours.



Lamb on Green Pasture

DSC_1555.JPGA nice little amuse bouche, a culinary greeting. I call this a welcome in English.

The little lamb consists of a small white ball of spiced feta cheese spread. It rests on the green pasture, which is made from a walnut pesto, which in turn rests on a small piece of toasted bread – almost like a crouton, just not quite as crunchy.

For the feta cheese spread:

Crush 200g of feta cheese with 75g of butter and a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Add crushed or grated fresh garlic (at least one fresh clove), very finely diced spring onions, red peppers, and finely chopped dill. Salt, black pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Mix thoroughly, let cool in the fridge, then form the little balls and return to the fridge.

Note that the 200g base makes a lot more than what you need for this little teaser. It’s delicious for breakfast, lunch or support on the next day, provided you have fresh bread to go along with it, and you don’t need to meet with customers or other important folk in close proximity.

For the Walnut Pesto:

Chop a small bunch of Italian basil roughly. Toast a handful of walnuts briefly, then put everything into the blender. Add several tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, two crushed cloves of garlic, a pinch of nutmeg, then add a very generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.

Blizz for a few minutes, and add oil if necessary. It wants to be firm-ish yet runny.

For the bread:

Half-stale white sourdough bread is ideal. Rub the slices with garlic, then with a ripe tomato, then drizzle with some olive oil and toast on the griddle. Cut into thumb-sized portions, ready for two-bite action.

Assemble everything and voila! A little lamb on a green pasture. Welcome to our house. Make yourself comfortable. Glass of Bubbly with that?


Italian-esque Bread Soup

DSCF7282.JPGSoup with attitude, Jamie Oliver called it. I’d say it’s soup with passion, because it’s a bit of a palaver to make, so you’d better really want it. But once you sampled it, you will love it.

This goes back to a dish Jamie Oliver once made on TV, so I shall claim only part ownership to this recipe – part ownership because I never saw or followed Jamie’s, but at any rate, it’s lovely, and the name Bread Soup is one of those lovely kitchen understatements…

Jamie called it Bread Soup With Attitude. It’s also a bit of a palaver to make, thus truly Italian, and lovely. Here goes:

Per person, find 250ml good stock. I cook a chicken with vegetables in just the right amount of liquid, set the chicken meat aside for something else some other day, skim and clarify the soup.

Then, per person, take two thick slices stale white bread. Stale, but not rock-hard. Remove some of the crust, pre-cut the remaining crust to make it easier to eat without a mess in the end. Gently fry the slices with garlic and olive oil, then rub a ripe tomato into each side.

Cut Savoy cabbage leaves and Cavolo Nero leaves into pieces roughly the size of the bread slice, and fry with olive oil for a two minutes or so. Crisp some bacon or panchetta, grind a good amount of Gruyere cheese. Stack bread, cabbage, bacon, cheese, bread, cabbage, bacon, cheese into s soup dish, and grill until the cheese begins to brown.

Shallow-fry whole sage leaves in clarified butter until they are crisp. Drain the fat and try not to break the leaves, which are now very brittle.

Now pour the stock over each portion, return to the grill for another minute or two.

Decorate with crisp sage leaves, maybe a remaining slice of crisp bacon, and a drizzle of the sage-infused clarified butter, and serve immediately.


French Onion Soup

french-onion-soup.jpgA delicious and warming French onion soup in 60 minutes.

This takes about 60 minutes. I know, because I timed it, because I disagreed with someone’s time-consuming method of onion soup preparation (

Peel one large yellow onion a person, then cut into semi-circle or quarter-circle rings, 3mm thin. For every two portions, add a small red onion, peeled and cut in the same manner. Peel and crush one small clove of garlic each portion. (10 minutes)

Get a deep pan with a good amount of olive oil on high heat. Sweat the onions, then add crushed black pepper (1/2 teaspoon each portion), crushed allspice (1/4 teaspoon a person) and one crushed juniper berry each portion. Add two rashers of streaky bacon or smoked belly of pork (unless restricted by vegetarianism), add one bay leave for every two portions. Turn the heat down to moderate.

Close the lid for 10 minutes. This produces steam to cook the onions, so try to keep the lid closed. Then, open the lid, and caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally.

(You may now add a pinch of sugar if your onions are too sharp or just not the golden, sweet variety.)

Grate some Gruyere cheese, and make some chunky white bread croutons while the onions are working for you. I prefer using croutons over fresh bread. Fresh bread turns into a slimy mess, and I can spice the croutons with garlic and chili.

The onions should caramelize within 20 minutes. Set the croutons aside.

Dust the onions with a spoonful of white wheat flour, stir, then add liquid. Cold water is a good way to start, about 350ml per portion, but you could also use stock. Once you’ve got it back boiling, season to taste with salt, black pepper, allspice, a hint of nutmeg. Stir and let simmer for 15 minutes, tasting and seasoning as you go along.

Turn the grill on, discard the bay leaves, juniper berries, chilies and bacon rashers, if any, and dish the soup out into portion-sized, heat-proof soup bowls.

Sprinkle croutons on top of each bowl and top with cheese. Go easy on the cheese; you’re making soup, not pizza. Moderate application of cheese also enables your diners to eat the soup with a spoon but without making a mess.

Put under the grill for 5min (cheese bubbling and turning golden, occasional brown spots), and serve with a crisp white wine.

Done in 60 minutes, less for a small amount, and thoroughly enjoyable.


Fish On Toast

DSC_1212Quick and simple, and delicious: Smoked salmon and poached egg on toast.

Really simple: Get some crumpets, thick toast or rustic sourdough bread slices. Toast until crunchy. Add a generous slice of good smoked salmon on top of each toast, and top that with one tablespoon of Sauce Hollandaise. Prepare one poached egg per toast, stick it on top of the sauce, and decorate with cress, dill, or crispy fried bacon.

Serve with salad and a dry white wine.

For the sauce hollandaise, simply make a sauce Bearnaise without the tarragon business. Or, to put it another way, prepare a thick custard from 50g butter, 150ml tick cream and 4 free range egg yolks. Season with a generous amount of black pepper, a pinch of salt, one teaspoon of mustard and and two or three teaspoons of white wine or rice vinegar – just be careful with the vinegar so that it doesn’t split the sauce.

Almost too pretty to eat, don’t you think?

Looking at the images years after filing the recipe, I realise that the depicted version shows a Portobello Mushroom instead of a crunchy crumpet. Also good!


DSC_1006.JPGThese are the real Bretzeln, not the crisp, bone-dry Pretzels you are given on an aeroplane.

You need pure caustic soda for this. You can buy crystals of pure sodium hydroxide and make your own lye. Pure chemicals fit for use in food can be bought under the name Bretzellauge from a number of German online suppliers.

Don’t mess about with substitutes, such as dissolved bicarbonate of soda. It’s a very, very poor substitute.

Make a 4% lye from 40 g pure sodium hydroxide crystals on one litre of water, following procedures and safety advise on the packaging. You can store this in a glass bottle, as it can be reused many times. The lye shouldn’t be in contact with textiles, your eyes or any mucous membrane, but it is not very aggressive. A cheap pair of plastic gloves protect your hands, your reading glasses take care of your eyes. My worktop and my silicone baking sheets tolerate this lye with ease.

For one full-sized baking tray (6 to 8 Bretzeln):

300 g white wheat flour, 5 g salt, 1 nob of soft butter (about the size of a walnut), 20 g fresh yeast (or dry yeast if you must), 90 ml lukewarm water, 90 ml lukewarm milk.

Dissolve salt, butter, yeast in the milky water, then add the resulting liquor to the flour.

Knead thoroughly, let rest for 20 minutes, then knead briefly once more. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts for chunkier Bretzeln, or 8 parts for smaller and thinner ones. (Make the chunkier ones first until you have got the hang of it.)

Now roll each chunk into a thin sausage, approximately as thin as my index finger or perhaps your thumb, ~ 15 mm, then swiftly shape into a Bretzel: stretch the roll into a straight line and mentally mark the point one third away from each end. Now take both ends into a smooth loop towards you, twist them around each other just once, and attach the end from the right to the point one third from the right end, the end from the left to the point one third from the left.

This is a lot harder to explain than to do, but you may need a little practise.

Line your baking tray with a silicone baking sheet (alternatively use baking parchment).

Gently pour the lye into a flat dish, such as a Pyrex baking dish. Put on the rubber gloves and dip each Bretzel into the lye. A simple in-and-out will do, the Bretzeln don’t need to rest in the lye. Take care as the lye makes them slippery and makes them fall apart.

Place the Bretzeln on the tray with a little space in between, and give them another 30 minutes to rise further. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse salt (rock salt, sea salt flakes, etc).

Return the remaining lye to the bottle, clean up, preheat the oven to 200 C (390 F).

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, place them on a cooling rack and enjoy as soon as you possibly can. They are best straight from the oven.

We like them just so, or with a little butter, or with steak tartare, or with cheese – almost anything really.



P20160710121543.JPGBread making is surprisingly simple and astonishingly rewarding. Have a go!

This is our daily bread, which we love for its taste, texture, and the fact that it keeps pretty well even though it is made from the most basic ingredients only, and free of any emulgators, stabilisers, colouring, preservatives and what-nots.

The basic dough is simple:

500 g white wheat flour
25 g fresh yeast
10 g salt
60 to 70 ml of lukewarm water per 100 g of flour
your ferment (“mother dough”), see notes below

Use 60 ml if you want to shape the bread by hand, roll it or otherwise sculpt it.

Use 70 ml for proving overnight and subsequent baking in a backing dish. This makes for the richest flavour but is too fluid for shaping.

Another household favourite uses a flour mix from 250 g of white white flour and 50 g each of white spelt flour, whole spelt flour and whole rye flour.

The process is always the same: dissolve all ingredients except for the flour in the liquid, then knead into the flour. Knead very thoroughly to obtain gluten, which gives a strong and chewy bread, knead just enough to make a homogeneous mix for a fluffier, lighter bread. Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes, then knead again. Knead thoroughly or very briefly depending on whether you want the result to be strong or fluffy.

For “immediate” baking, let prove for at least on hour, two is better. Some ovens have a dough proving program (40 C, no fan), that helps to accelerate the process. British traditionalists would place the bowl in the airing cupboard next to the hot water cylinder.

For baking in the next morning, spray with a little water to moisten the surface, then cover with cling film in a tall bowl. It will rise tremendously, and proving times up to 18 hours are no problem at all.

Before you get ready to bake your bread, take away a small fistful of dough. Moisten it with a spray can, let it set uncovered for a few hours, then cover with cling film. This is your ferment, which you’ll add to the next batch. The longer you’ll keep this running the more aromatic and unique your bread will be. This process is similar to making sourdough, but is much easier, less messy. The ferment will sour over time, too, so I do sometimes call our bread soured bread.

A 500 g loaf bakes at 220 C in 40 minutes.
Baguettes, Fougasse or smaller rolls are happy with 200 C for 12 to 18 minutes, just watch the colour.