Weekly Update

France – for me this means an obligatory Pastis, especially when it’s warm. In a very crowded market in Sarlat

Jump ahead to see:

The glorious Dordogne
The Best Fruit and Veg This Week
Some Seasonal Recipes
Where I’ve Eaten
Cooking with Wine
Recipe of the week:
Interesting Reading
What’s On

The glorious Dordogne

Typical scenery on our morning walk

I am lucky enough to have not one but two sets of friends with houses in the picturesque Dordogne region of France. It is the home of ducks and truffles and incredibly beautiful villages and towns, some fortified. It’s so easy to get away somewhere like this from London. Tube and rail to London City Airport, then a flight to Bergerac.

Our casual welcome lunch at home: French cheeses, ripe tomato salad, coarse country-style pate and goose rillettes.

The Best Fruit and Veg This Week

Beetroot, pumpkin and leeks

What’s not to love about cooler weather vegetables and fruit?

I am a massive fan of Sydney Markets. They keep me up-to-date with what’s in season and available each week. I’ve been buying beautiful leeks in London and also France. They add such a delicate onion flavour to soups, casseroles, stir-fries, risottos and pasta dishes. I like to cook them in a little butter, then with a splash of chicken stock. Stir in some mint if you like.
Sydney Markets have a 
Braised Leeks with Thyme recipe you may enjoy.

I always have brown onions in the kitchen as they are such an important part of so many cuisines. They are less pungent than white onions and ideal for making a sweet and aromatic French onion soup. Serve with crusty bread for a quick meal.

I have been enjoying the brussels sprouts in London, though they won’t be around once the weather reilably warms up. |In Australia of course they are coming into season.  Toss thinly sliced Brussels sprouts in a hot wok with a little oil and sliced pork or beef until just tender, toss through noodles and soy sauce and serve. For something a little bit different, finely shred Brussels sprouts and stir-fry with chopped bacon, pine nuts and garlic.

Beetroot is another colourful vegetable which I learned to eat raw in Greece. To cook, I prefer roasting which intensifies the flavour.  Toss roasted beetroot, with diced apples and rocket.

For value on the vegetable scene, you cannot go past cabbage. This humble vegetable is versatile, nutritious and flavoursome. I have been buying small cabbages, cutting in quarters and steaming or microwaving. Add shredded Chinese cabbage also known as wombok to soups, hoikken dishes or braise with spicy chorizo and serve with mashed potato.

Pumpkin is a favourite for soup soup. Start with sliced leeks for a mild onion flavour or use brown onions for a richer flavour base.If you love Asian flavours, add a little chopped coriander, grated ginger, chilli and finish with coconut milk. You might also enjoy my Fried pumpkin balls or Rag pasta with pumpkin and sage.

I dealt with rhubarb in last week’s update. However, Granny Smith apples and NAVEL oranges are in their prime. Apple & Cinnamon Strudel recipe or make a seasonal salad like Orange, Spinach, Fennel & Chickpea Salad. For a quick dessert, peel some oranges, removing all the pith, then slice. Arrange the orange slices on a platter, drizzle with honey, lightly dust with cinnamon and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.

Pears were always my favourite as a little girl. Select firm, mature pears and ripen at room temperature, but be aware that the skin colour may not change with ripening. The fruit is ready to eat when it yields to gentle pressure at the stem end. Use firm pears for cooking. Cook them with verjuice and butter in a pan or in the oven.

Oranges, apples and rhubarb, some of this week’s best fruit

Some Seasonal Recipes

Roast Monkfish with Irish-style cabbage, potato sauce and scallion butter. Recipe here.

Some other fabulous seasonal recipes 
Haloumi with fennel, orange and kalamata olive salad
Spiced olive oil and orange dessert cake with botrytis oranges
Easy pulled pork with apple and brussels sprout slaw

Where I’ve Eaten

Le Saint Martial

L Complimentary amuse bouche: warm asparagus foam soup and foie gras brulee: R:  Escalope of pan-fried foie gras with green and cooked Mallemort asparagus, Grenobloise condiment, black garlic gravy

It is possible to eat very, very reasonably in France. On our first night there we went to a lovely local restaurant, run by a husband and wife team and incredibly good value.We really enjoyed the food, the ambience and the wine. For Sunday lunch we went somewhere special. Le Saint Martial is in the heart of the village of St Martial de Nabirat, not far from Sarlat, run by Valérie & Jean-Marc Réal, she at front-of-house and he is the chef. It is a deligthfully small but spacious restaurant with a choice of  indoor or  terrace seating. The food is seasonal, featuring traditional Perigord products but in an absolutely contemporary way. As is the custom in France, there are many menu options of three or more courses. While more expensive, very well priced for the quality from 36€ – 63€ for from three to five courses.

L Declination of Pyrenean Milk Lamb with Bear’s Garlic, Tarbais Bean Hummus and Blettes Millefeuille and R Langoustines in Kadaïf, fallen spinach shoots, Risotto de Crozet and Butternut, shell emulsion and Sarazin

You have to love the English translation of the menu but the lamb dish featured lamb in myriad forms and was outstanding. The langoustine were perfectly cooked, tender and juice on a bed of “risotto” made from a tiny pasa in a lobster bisque.  Fillets of Rougets Barbet (red mullet) came with a disc of crisp potato and creamed peas with wasabi.

Cooking with Wine

Ever wondered if there are any principles to follow when cooking with wine? Image by Brett Stevens for Balance. Matching Food and Wine. What Works and Why

Here is an extract from my book Balance on Cooking with Wine – I hope you find it helpful.

Never put in your food what you would not put in your mouth! If a wine is not good enough to drink on its own, then don’t degrade good food by cooking with it. By the same token absolutely fabulous wine will make your finished dish taste even better, but like us, you probably need to keep an eye on the budget.

So, when cooking with wine, think about what type of a dish it is. A heavily garlicked spag bol – sure go good quality cask red wine, it would probably be fine to drink with it too. But something more refined, use a wine which is more refined too.

Cooking with the same wine which you are going to drink with a meal is a really great way to help the food and wine match – and this is more obvious in delicate dishes. So poach a beautiful piece of fish or chicken breast and make a sauce out of the wine you intend drinking with it.

Certainly a splash or more of wine in the food will enhance it in our opinion. However, like everything, there are a few guidelines to observe to make the most of it.

First, don’t use faulty wine to cook with – if the wine is corked, musty or whatever, these flavours will be concentrated by cooking. For it is important when cooking with wine that it is brought to the boil and reduced – either through long slow simmering or rapid boiling as in a reduction sauce. Otherwise your food will have a raw, alcoholic taste. This also evaporates the alcohol, making it safe for non-drinkers to eat the dish.

This reduction can also enhance other inherent characteristics of the wine: a thin, acidic wine (especially a white wine) will make a thin, acidic sauce and may need some balancing sweetness at the end. Conversely, a sweet wine will make a sweet or heavy sauce and so should be used wisely, or else add a squeeze of lemon. Delicate, aromatic wines will generally lose their subtle flavours, so something stronger which can stand up to the cooking process is ideal.  Avoid cooking in aluminium as it can give your food a metallic taste.

Wine can also work as a wonderful tenderiser in a marinade. If you do marinate uncooked meat or fish and wish to use extra as a sauce, make sure you bring it to the b oil and simmer for a couple of minutes before eating.

As a general rule, fairly robust, reasonable quality wines will enhance your cooked dishes. But again, experiment, have fun and see what YOU like.

Recipe of the week:

Oven roasted King salmon with braised lentils and spinach
-chosen this as it is perfect for the theme of Macula Degeneration month – see below

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

1 cup French style lentils
4 x 170g fillets King Salmon, skin on
1 tablespoon (20ml) olive oil
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 leek, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon baby capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ lemon, juiced or to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
200g baby spinach leaves
Extra olive oil, for shallow frying
1 jar salmon roe, for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200’C (180’C fan-forced). Place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water by 5cm and bring to the boil. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain.

Carefully remove the skin from each salmon fillet and set aside. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and place on a lined baking tray. Roast for 8 minutes for pink flesh or as desired.

Heat oil in a large frying pan, add carrot and cook for 5 minutes. Add leek a cook for a further 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add drained lentils, chives, flat-leaf parsley leaves, capers, mustard, lemon juice and cayenne pepper and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir through baby spinach leaves until just wilted.

Meanwhile, heat 2cm olive oil for shallow frying in a medium frying pan. Add salmon skin and cook for a minute, or until crisp on leave side. Drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, place a large spoonful of lentils on each plate and top with roasted salmon, crisp salmon skin and a spoonful of salmon roe.

Interesting Reading

David Thompson’s Nahm Restaurant in Bangkok

You may have followed my few days in Bangkok on social media or in this update, but here is my article on Five Food Experiences to  try in Bangkok.

The Royal Wedding may be over but everyone still seems abuzz with what a glorious and special day it was. The Eater gives a Brief History of British Royal Wedding Cakes.

Food and Wine give the recipe for Harry and Meghan’s cake and a video of it being assembled.
You can also listen to a podcast with the baker Clare Ptak who made it here on Lindsay Cameron Wilson’s site.

Food & Wine also reports on The 10 Best Food Cities in the World according to Trip Advisor.

What’s On

Vivid on Sydney Harbour

Vivid is on from 25 May to 16 June in an every growing show of amazing light art and music. Ten years in it is justifiably world famous and does it’s job of attracting visitors in cooler weather.
However, it’s not only in the city and also has a few incarnations in Chatswood every evening from 5.30 – 10.30pm. In the concourse there are lots of dining options, Westfield has a Hawker’s Market open til late every night and there is a pop-up international food market in Chatswood Mall.

Eat for Your Eyes’ this Macula Month (1-31 May)
Macular disease is the leading cause of blindness in Australia

It’s not too late to “eat for your eyes”.  My mother, a nurse, called macula degeneration (of the eyes)  “the thief in the night” as before it was more regularly diagnosed loss of sight was common. It remains the leading cause of preventable blindness in working-aged Australians. She ended up taking medication to prevent pressure build-up behind the eyes and I am tested every year but fortunately so far am ok.  Knowledge is definitely power in the defence against macular disease, yet a recent study by Macular Disease Foundation Australia has highlighted the need for Australians to be more aware of macular disease and how to minimise the risk.
Many years ago I remember hosting Ita Buttrose on Fresh with The Australian Women’s Weekly TV show when she published a cookbook promoting good foods to avoid it. She remains the Patron of Macular Disease Foundation Australia.

To reduce the risk of mascular disease:

  1. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet high in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can help keep our eyes healthy.
  2. Eat fish two to three times a week.  Dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, and a handful of nuts per week.
  3. Whenever possible, choose low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates instead of high GI

For information about macular disease, contact Macular Disease Foundation Australia on Ph. 1800 111 709 or visit www.mdfoundation.com.au
Best of all you can download a free cookbook with suitable recipes here. It is made up of recipes from celebrities and includes my recipe for Prawn and kale stir-fry

Snippets from Lyndey & Herbie’s Moveable Feast are now on Food Network.
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