Autumn on a Spoon

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I’ve always been a sucker for chestnuts.

Ever since I was a child, when they were a rare, seasonal treat roasted and served with salt from street vendors paper bags on cold winters evenings.

There’s something about the rich, sweet mellowness of them that whispers “Autumn” to me like nothing else, and with the early onset of what seems like Autumn to me this year, this seemed entirely fitting.

This was in my local pasta restaurant in London NW1 this evening – chestnut cake with roasted, slivered almonds and pistachios served with a light, almond scented custard.

Wonderfully dense and fudgy in texture, each spoonful was rich and sweet with a distinct chestnut taste.

Autumn on a spoon.

I must find a recipe for this…

Malabar Prawn Curry

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Best friend and fellow foodie has been raving about a malabar prawn curry in a recently published cookbook by Dhruv Baker called Spice.

It’s extremely good – a beautiful book, fabulous photos and great spicing ideas – check it out.

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As I had most of the ingredients I decided to give it a whirl this weekend, and I’m so glad that I did.

This coconut creamy yet hot curry was eaten straight out of the pan.

Rather than prepare rice to go with it I made parathas with the gram flour that I had left, and their grainy, floury texture proved perfect for dunking and mopping up the spicy deliciousness.

Similar to a Thai curry, with a hot sour edge to the creaminess (there was a lot of coriander in there with the coconut milk and fresh chillies) this was comfort food of a different kind.

The pan wasn’t quite licked, but nearly so. Let’s just say that it didn’t need a great deal of washing up after we’d eaten it..

Definitely a keeper.

Salmon Koubliac

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I needed to use up a couple of small salmon steaks that had been lurking in the freezer for a while, and so when I saw an Alaskan friend’s post for a salmon dish that reminded me of something I haven’t cooked for years, Salmon Koubliac, I knew that it was time.

This is flaky pastry, layered up with rice, vegetables and salmon. Quite a delicate taste and quite delicious both hot or cold.

On a base of pastry, add a layer of cooked seasoned rice. The recipe said arborio rice, but I mixed in some wild and carmargue red rice for more bite.

Next, soften a chopped onion, garlic, chopped peppers and kale (I used spinach as it’s what I had) in butter and layer on top. It seems to work with most types of vegetable as long as well cooked, so perhaps ring the changes and use up those tomatoes and a chopped courgette or two if you’ve got a bit of a glut!

Then add flaked, seasoned, lightly poached salmon, and another layer of rice. Cover with a lid of pastry and bake for 45 mins to an hour until golden.

Then eat.

A huge wedge of this with a chilled glass of wine is enough on it’s own for a filling lunch or supper with a satisfyingly Russian name, even if it’s made chez vous with what you’ve got in the garden.

Fried Green Tomatoes

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Like everyone else I know here in France, my tomato crop has been devastated by blight this year. We’ve had a very wet summer and most people have lost all of their tomatoes.

I’ve bitten the bullet this morning and eventually cut down all my plants too.

We’ve not done as badly as some, having cropped a couple of bowls full over the last month or so, but the last fruit salvaged from the plants is still very green.

Along with most of the western world’d gardeners I will be now plaguing the internet and all my old books on preserves for innovative ways to use up the green tomatoes!

I remember finding an amazing recipe for slow roasted pork belly cooked with green tomatoes and lime last year which I will definitely dig out.

Other than that, ketchup, chutneys, salsas…here we come!

Good, old fashioned sweet and sour pork

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Scanning the restaurant review sites for inspiration and a new Chinese restaurant to try for supper yesterday evening here in London, I came across a number of great reviews for the Kam Fung restaurant in High Holborn.

Described as a good old-fashioned Cantonese restaurant with slightly shabby decoration but fantastic food, I decided to give it a whirl. A girl can love Hakesaan but still sometimes crave a good, old fashioned chinese meal.

The restaurant was located in one of the those slightly seedy streets in a decidedly un-gentrified part of Holborn reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. Sandwiched between a newsagent and a laundry, it’s faded canopy drenched in a typical London downpour, I have to confess to approaching it with some trepidation.

Once I was inside, wobbly tables and mismatched chairs were the order of the day, although the warm welcome more than made up for it.I’m not used to anything other than scorn from most Chinese staff in restaurants in London, so this was cause for a bit of a double-take.

The waitress warned me that the portions were enormous and sure enough, my crispy duck with pancakes, sweet and sour pork and special fried rice was more than enough to feed at least two people.

Replete, but wobbling slightly on my repaired chair, I vowed that I would be back.
Fantastic meal, great value, and lovely staff.

Who needs Hakesaan….:-)

Macaron Moments

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Our local supermarket in France is a small, rural affair.

It stocks most things but it’s reasonably basic.

One of the things it does have, however, is an onsite bakery (“boulangerie”)/patisserie section. With a lady that makes bread and cakes freshly on the premises.

Now, considering that the village that it’s located in has only 1500 souls and already boasts three boulangeries, with more in the next village along two kilometres away, I think that this gives you an idea of how important bread and pastries are to the French!

She’s clearly a frustrated soul, always looking to stretch the boundaries within the rules that she has to operate within. Flans, eclairs, fruit tarts… all squeezed into her one little fridge display unit that sits next to the bread…and now macarons.

The French do make a wickedly good macaron, and hers are no exception. Pistachio, apricot, mango, raspberry, coffee, chocolate – the flavours and colours are pretty imaginative and these little confections are quite delicious.

With a good cup of coffee, there’s always a moment for a macaron….

Back to Reality

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After all the posh restaurant eating over the last few weeks it was back to reality today with a nut roast with cheese and tomato layer from my beloved 1970s Cranks cookbook.

There are certain recipes that get revisited time after time, and for me this is one of them.

It’s a classic.

Mixed chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts, almonds and pecans), wholemeal breacrumbs, an onion, vegetable stock, a layer of tomatoes from the garden and whatever cheese you can find languishing in the fridge and you’re there.

A friend of mine adds a layer of pesto to the tomato layer, and you can ring the changes as imaginatively as you like.

Perfect for those days when you don’t feel like meat or fish and have had enough of salads.