On this page are a selection of recipes that I have been given or that I have created during my trip. All the recipes are local to the region or use local produce from that region.
Italy is full of wonderful pasta dishes and this one is a speciality of Palermo in Sicily, combining Italian pasta with fresh sardines from the fishing port and Arabic influences of pine nuts, raisins and saffron.
Pasta con Sarde
40 g sultanas or raisins
6 baby fennel bulbs
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon saffron threads
200 g toasted pine nuts
4 anchovy fillets
12 sardines, cleaned and boned, heads removed, to produce butterfly fillets,
480 g bucatini pasta
2 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs
Soak the sultanas or raisins in warm water and peel and thinly slice the onion.
Boil the fennel in salted water for 10 minutes then dry on kitchen paper. Chop and place in a bowl, reserving the cooking water.
Heat half the oil and sauté the onion. Add 500ml of the water used to cook the fennel, as well as the saffron, drained sultanas or raisins and pine nuts and simmer 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the anchovies with remaining oil for few minutes until they disintegrate, then add to sauce.
Add the sardines to the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the fennel. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a further few minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the retained fennel water until al dente. Drain and serve with sauce, sprinkling breadcrumbs on top.
Giuseppe Garibaldi pops up a lot in Sicily, having been responsible for the unification of Italy by initiating an assault on the island in 1860. I’ve always been a fan of Garibaldi biscuits, or ‘dead fly’ biscuits as they are affectionately known and so I thought I should find out if there is any connection between this tea-time treat and the great military general.
Apparently, Garibaldi made a visit to South Shields in 1854 and John Carr, a famous biscuit maker, named his latest creation after the Italian Hero. Although they are popular in the UK, they are virtually unheard of elsewhere in the world. The recipe below is from Delia Smith.
110g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
25g spreadable butter
25g golden caster sugar
2 tablespoons milk
a little egg white, lightly beaten
a little granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C, gas mark 6.
Put the flour, salt and butter into a mixing bowl and rub to the fine crumb stage.
Then add the sugar and after that enough milk to mix to a firm dough that will leave the bowl clean.
After that transfer it to a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a rectangle 20cm by 30cm.
Now sprinkle the currants over half the surface and then fold the other half on top and roll everything again so you end up with a rectangle 20cm by 30cm.
Then trim it neatly using a sharp long-bladed knife, so you end up with a shape about 18cm by 28cm.
Cut this into 24 fingers approximately 3cm by 7cm.
Now place the biscuits on the baking sheet, brush with a little egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake near the centre of the oven for 12–15 minutes, then cool on a wire tray and store in an airtight tin.
The name ‘arancini’ comes from the Italian for orange as these tasty Sicilian snacks look a bit like an orange once they have been fried. There are two types. Below is the recipe for Palermo aracini which are spherical and with rice that has been infused with saffron. The more basic Catania/Syracuse arancini are usually cone shaped without saffron.
500g Arborio rice
350g minced meat
200g tomato sauce
150g small peas
150g grated Caciocavallo cheese
Salt and pepper
Cook the rice in salted water (add the saffron if you wish to make ‘Palermo’ aracini). When the rice is ready add a little oil to prevent it from sticking together. Grate the Caciocavallo cheese and add it to the rice. Put to one side.
Fry the meat gently in a pan, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the tomato sauce and the peas. Cook for a further 10 mins.
Form the rice into large balls or cones and place a spoonful of the meat mixture in the centre, ensuring it is completely surrounded by rice. Roll the arancini in flour, then beaten eggs and finally breadcrumbs.
Fry well in oil. Serve hot.
This pasta dish was created in honour of the composer Bellini and named after his opera ‘Norma’.
Spaghetti alla Norma
1 large aubergine
400g tomato passata
1 garlic clove
Cut the aubergine in 1cm thick slice and salt them to remove the water.
Gently fry the garlic in a pan with oil until golden. Add the passata, some salt and the basil leaves and cook for 15 mins.
Meanwhile, fry the aubergines slices in oil and drain on some kitchen paper. Then add to the sauce and cook for a further 5 mins.
Cook the spaghetti and drain it well before tossing it in the sauce.
Serve with grated ricotta.
Many years ago when I was touring the Greek islands I had a cooking lesson by the owner of a hotel on Paros and was taught how to make a traditional orange cake. While touring Greece in my motorhome I have also come across this cake in both a restaurant and in a bakery.
Orange Cake (serves 6/8)
200g of frozen filo pastry
50ml vegetable oil
1 tspn vanilla sugar
1 tub of low fat Greek yoghurt
20 g of baking powder
zest of 1 large orange
500ml of water
Break the filo pastry into small pieces into a large mixing bowl.
Add 50g sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla sugar, Greek yoghurt, baking powder and orange zest.
Bake for 20 mins at 200°C.
Make the syrup by placing the 250g of sugar in the water and simmer over a low heat until the sugar has melted and you are left with syrup.
Pour the syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in.
In the town of Nordlingen, on the Romantic Road through Germany, I was lucky enough to try this tasty local apple pie.
500 g of flour
20 g fresh yeast
220 ml milk
100 g sugar (for the dough)
750 grams applesauce
100 gram sugar (for filling)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon lemon peel
1 tablespoon orange peel
1 tablespoon raisins
2 cl schnapps
1 egg yolk (for filling)
Pour the flour into a mixing bowl and make a small dip in the middle. Crumble the yeast and place in the dip. Heat about 50 ml of the milk and pour on the yeast. Add some flour and stir. Sprinkle dried flour over it and leave the dough covered in a warm place until the flour layer on the yeast shows strong cracks.
Then mix the dough with the sugar, eggs, a pinch of salt and the remaining milk.
Divide the dough into 2/3 (for the base) and 1/3 (for the lid) and form a ball. Spray both balls lightly with flour and leave covered with a cloth in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Put the apple sauce to a bowl. Add 100 g of sugar, the ground cinnamon, the ground almonds and the raisins. Finely chop lemon and orange peel and add to apple sauce. If you like, it can be flavored with schnapps.
Preheat oven to 175 degrees.
Roll the large amount of dough into a circle and place on a large baking tray with baking paper. Cover with the apple sauce. Roll the smaller amount of dough a little larger than base, roll up with the rolling pin and carefully place over the applesauce. Cover all sides well with the dough.
The cover is traditionally decorated. Use the tip of scissors to cut small slits into the lid and open the slots with your fingers. Brush the lid with the egg yolk. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes and leave to cool. Cut to pieces.
On the plains below the Vosges Mountains in eastern France cabbage is a common crop. The locals also like their meat, particularly pork. A popular dish in the region is Choucroute which I tried while visiting the town of Obernai.
1.5kg raw cabbage
1 chopped onion
1 clove of garlic
1 knob of butter
1 knuckle of ham
400g of smoked bacon
600g of smoked shoulder of pork
3 Montbeliard sausages
6 Strasbourg sausages or frankfurters
250g of white sausage
1 bay leaf
8 juniper berries
4 grains of coriander
½ litre of Riesling wine
¼ litre of stock
Salt and pepper
Wash the cabbage well and slice thinly. Melt the butter in a large, thick-bottomed pot, and gently cook the chopped onion. When soft, add the cabbage, garlic, bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries and coriander. Then add the ham, bacon and pork, pour in the wine and stock, and season to taste. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1½ hours.
Peel the potatoes and place them on the cabbage. Then add the Monbeliard sausages and cook for a further 30 mins. Just before serving, fry the white sausage and boil the Strasbourg sausages for 5 mins. Place the cabbage on a serving dish with the neat and potatoes on the top.
The town of Commercy in the north east of France is known for the production of the small sponge cake called a madeleine. There are several stories about the creation of the madeleine. The most popular is that Madeleine Paulmier, a cook for Stanisław Leszczyński, the duke of Lorraine invented them. In 1755, Louis XV, son-in-law of the duke, enjoyed her cakes and introduced them to the court in Versailles. Other stories suggest the shell-shaped cake originated in Compostella, Spain, and that a pilgrim named Madeleine returned with them, or a cook named Madeleine offered them to pilgrims passing through Lorraine.
Madeleine De Commercy
Makes approximately 20 cakes
80g icing sugar
5g baking powder
4g lemon juice
Put the eggs sugar and honey in a mixing bowl and blend well. Add the flour and baking powder and mix for another 4 minutes.
Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan and then add to the mixture with the salt and lemon juice and mix for another minute.
Cover the mixing bowl with cling film and place in a fridge for 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 220 deg C (450 deg F).
Use an icing bag to fill the moulds then place in the oven and bake for 11 minutes.
Remove from oven and place them on a wire rack to cool.
At a honey festival in Montargis, I discovered Nonettes. They are traditional small, jam-filled cakes originating in Dijon, where they were made by the nuns. In fact the name means “little nun” in French. The recipe is usually similar to pain d’épices, but this one is a citrus version with a marmalade filling.
100 ml water
100 g honey
50 g caster sugar
30 g butter
140 g flour
5 g baking powder
Put the water, honey, sugar and butter into a saucepan with some orange zest. Place on a medium heat and simmer. Remove from the heat and add the sieve the flour and baking powder. Mix well with to make a smooth batter and place an initial layer in the bottom of a muffin tray. Place a small spoonful of marmalade on top and then cover with more batter.
Place in the fridge for 1 hour.
Preheat an oven to 210°C (410°F). Bake the nonettes for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool completely before eating.
Makes approximately 15.
Roquefort is a wonderful creamy, blue sheep’s cheese from the Aveyron region of France. Though some of the recipes I came across were quite novel (prawns in coconut milk with Roquefort!) I’ve decided to list two classics here. The combination of blue cheese, pear and walnuts is fantastic, as is the pairing of the strong blue cheese with bacon.
Muffins with Roquefort, pears and walnuts
130g Roquefort cheese
1 ripe pear
50g crushed walnuts
2 tablespoons whipping cream
salt, pepper and nutmeg
1/2 sachet of dehydrated baker’s yeast
Peel, core, and dice the pear.
In a mixing bowl, mix the flour. Make a little hole in the middle and pour in the eggs, the cream, the diced pear, the walnuts and diced Roquefort. Mix and pour the mixture into muffin tins.
Cook for 20 minutes in preheated oven to 200°C.
Bacon wrapped prunes with Roquefort
Streaky bacon slices
Slit the pitted prunes and stuff them with cubes of Roquefort. Then wrap them firmly with bacon and use a cocktail stick to hold them together. Grill until golden. Serve on small round slices of toast.
The Camargue region in the south of France is famous for its bulls. Not just for the Course Camarguaise, a bull fighting event where the bulls are unharmed, but also for their succulent meat.
Filet de Taureau with Cepes
4 fillets of bull meat (or beef)
250 ml cream
1 kg cepes (or other mushrooms)
Garlic and parsley
Finely chop the shallot and the mushroom stalks and fry. Add the cream and table spoon of beef stock, simmer for 30 mins. Slice the mushroom heads and fry in oil, seasoning with garlic and parsley.
Fry the fillets as desired and serve with the sauce, mushroom and other vegetables in season.
Chocolate and pear make a marvellous combination and this recipe from a restaurant in Nimes is the perfect pairing.
Poached Pears with citrus zest and chocolate cake
4 small pears
400 ml water
55 g milk chocolate
15 g butter
40g chestnut flour
60g crushed chestnuts
250ml orange juice
To poach the pears, place 100g of the sugar, water and mixed spice in a large pan and heat slowly. Add the lemon and orange zest. Remove the skin of the pears and poach in the liquid for 20 mins.
To make the chocolate cake, heat an oven to 165 deg C. Melt the chocolate, butter and 30g of sugar, then add the flour, beaten egg and crushed chestnuts to the mixture. Divide the mixture by 4 and place in ramekin dishes. Cook for 15 to 20 mins in the oven.
To make the sauce, put the orange juice and 35g of sugar in a pan and heat slowly.
To assemble the dish, place the chocolate cakes in bowls, top with the poached pears and drizzle with the sauce.
Sardinia has a wonderful liqueur made from myrtle berries but they also use the twigs to flavour roast meat such as Porceddu, a roast sucking piglet. If you can set up a spit and build a fire in your garden you could try it out. Or just cook the pork in an oven and drink the Mirto.
Suckling Pig Roasted over Myrtle
a suckling piglet weighing about 6 kg, cleaned
500 g lard
fresh myrtle boughs
Set up the spit and light the wood fire, including the myrtle boughs.
Wash the piglet and dry it. Salt well inside and out. Place the piglet on the spit and place it about 1 m above the fire.
The spit should be turned very slowly and the meat cooked for at least 1 hour, basting with liquid lard. Continue roasting for a further 2 hours. Check whether the meat is cooked by inserting a skewer or knife and ensuring that no blood runs out.
Let the meat rest for about 20 minutes, then carve it and serve with some nice Sardinian wine
In the town of Corte, in the central mountains of Corsica, I had an amazing lunch at one of the local restaurants. It was a feast of local produce: Omelette with mint, figatelli (pork liver sausage), wild boar pate, a selection of dried meats (salami, ham….), strong local cheese, lettuce, tomato, grapes, melon and a clementine. It was like a luxury ploughman’s.
Omelette with Mint
A small onion, finely sliced
2 mint leaves, finely sliced
A teaspoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
Beat the eggs with a little salt and pepper. Add the onion and mint and beat again. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the omelette until the eggs have just set.
Also in the town of Corte, I bought some delicious cake made with chestnut flour.
100g chestnut flour
150g wheat flour
1 packet of dried yeast
Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and mix in the sugar. Melt the butter in a pan and add it to the eggs with the two flours and the yeast. Beat the egg whites until stiff and then fold into the mixture. Add the grated chocolate, then pour into a lined, round cake tin. Cook in a medium heated oven for 30 to 40 mins until done.
Most tiramisu recipes use raw egg with the mascarpone but I prefer to avoid potential food poisoning and use whipping cream instead. Also, the additional layer of biscuits adds texture as well as flavour.
A pack of sponge fingers or sliced sponge cake
1 espresso cup of strong coffee
3 dessert spoons of dark rum
Ratafia or amaretti biscuits
250g whipping cream
100g icing sugar
Line a large glass dessert bowl with sponge fingers or slices of sponge cake. Make a small cup of strong black coffee and add 2 dessert spoons of rum to it. Pour over the sponge and allow it to soak in. Spread ratafia/amaretti biscuits with apricot jam and place a layer of them on top of the sponge. Whisk the mascarpone with the whipping cream and icing sugar and one dessert spoon of rum. Spread on top of the sponge/biscuit layers. Leave overnight in the fridge. Sprinkle with grated dark chocolate before serving.
While visiting the truffle markets the most popular truffle dish on offer seemed to be omelette, the truffle scent being passed on to the eggs by placing truffles with them in a sealed container prior to any cracking or cooking. At Villeneuve sur Vere I picked up a leaflet which featured basic but more imaginative truffle recipes, such as with asparagus, prawns, tagliatelle, mashed potato and stuffed baked potatoes. Truffles need to be used while fresh, within a week, and so it can be useful to make other truffle products to prolong their use. For example, blending grated truffle with salted butter, then freezing until needed. Or infusing oil or salt with truffles.
Baked Potatoes with Truffles
4 large potatoes
4 pieces of thick smoked bacon
Salt and pepper
Bake the potatoes for 1 hour in a hot oven. Meanwhile, grate the truffles and cut the bacon into small pieces. Fry gently in a pan until golden.
Remove the potatoes, cut in half and scoop out the soft insides. Mix this with the cream, butter, bacon and truffles. Season well. Replace the mixture in the potato skins and place under a grill for a few minutes.
Pink Garlic Soup
Pink garlic comes from the village Lautrec in southern France. However, you could also use regular garlic for this recipe.
2 litres of water
10 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon mustard
10cl olive oil
150 cl vermicelli
Salt and Pepper
Boil the water and then add the crushed garlic, egg white and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 3 minutes. Make a mayonnaise with the oil, mustard, egg yolk, salt and pepper. Thin it out with some of the stock before adding it to the soup.
Serve with croutons and fresh bread
Recently, while visiting Carcassonne, I warmed myself up with a traditional Cassoulet. There’s nothing better on a cold winters day.
The recipe varies depending on the available ingredients and the preparation of the individual chef, but there are three distinct versions corresponding to the three towns of Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Toulouse.
- Castelnaudary : lingot beans, preserved meat, pork chine, belly pork, pork rind, pork knuckle, onions, bouquet garni, seasonings…
- Carcassonne : add red-legged partridge
- Toulouse : add lamb and mutton then at the end of cooking pork rind sausage and preserved duck. Before putting the casserole in the oven cover it with Toulouse sausages.
Slow cooking in a low oven is essential, as is breaking the crust several times.
This recipe comes from the Academie du Cassoulet.
- 1kg dried haricots beans, Mazères lingots
- 1kg Toulouse sausage
- Pork : 1 knuckle, 1 trotter, 500g fresh rind, 400g chine, 1 ham bone, all premium quality, of course.
- 1 whole bulb of garlic, 4 large onions
- 5 preserved duck (or goose) legs and their fat
- 1 bouquet garni ( parsley, celery, thyme, bay)
- 8 cloves, coarse salt, pepper
(for 10 people)
The day before cooling the cassoulet, prepare a stock with the rind, trotter, knuckle, ham bone and bouquet garni. Simmer on a low heat for about 2½ hours. Skim and degrease carefully, salt lightly.
Also the day before, carefully check over the beans (you never know) and put them to soak overnight. Change the water at least 2 or 3 times.
The next morning: drain the rind, trotter, knuckle, ham bone and bouquet garni. Filter the stock. Cut the meat into large chunks. Squeeze the bouquet garni to extract maximum flavour. Put the preserved meat to melt in a pan and put to one side.
Cut the pork chine into cubes and brown in the warm fat then add the finely chopped onions and garlic and fry until lightly coloured. Drain and put to one side.
Put the beans into cold water and bring to the boil, skim well and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain well.
Moisten the beans with some of the reserved stock, add all of the meats and the garlic and onions. Add pepper generously and adjust the salt if necessary.
Place into the casserole, adding the preserved meat and the Toulouse sausages which have been lightly cooked in the oven and cut into pieces of about 10cm. Push the meats down into the beans.
Put into a low oven for about 2 hours. Push the meats below the surface regularly and moisten with the remaining stock if it seems necessary.
Cassoulet is even better if reheated the following day.
Poor Man’s Paella
This is my own version of a poor man’s paella. Paella can be found in all the restaurants in El Palmar, an island in the Albufera rice fields, just south of Valencia.
200g calasparra or risotto rice
4 chicken thighs
100g chorizo, sliced
12 large frozen prawns
Small tin of peas
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
½ litre chicken / vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of turmeric
4 cloves chopped garlic
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Gently fry the onion and garlic with olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the chorizo and the chicken and fry for a further 10 minutes. Add the pepper and the rice to absorb the oil, then add the stock and the turmeric. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 30 mins, adding more water if necessary. Add the prawns and tinned peas and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
I visited the Turron Museum in Xixona to discover how this Spanish confectionery is made.
• 1 kg honey
• 500g sugar
• 2 egg whites
• 1.5kg almonds
• grated lemon rind
Heat the honey over a slow flame until all of the water has evaporated. Add the sugar and mix together.
Beat the egg whites until they form peaks and then add them to the hot honey and sugar. Mix well until the mixture caramelises (turns golden brown).
Add the almonds and the grated rind of one lemon to the mixture. Mix well and leave to cool.
Pour the mixture into moulds lined with greaseproof paper.
The turron will be ready after 2 or 3 hours.
Slow Cooked Pig’s Cheeks
Though not easy to get in England, pig’s cheeks are quite popular in Spain. I first had them in a Monastery restaurant in the Sierra D’Espuna, then again in the city of Elche, and most recently from my mother’s oven. They are best cooked slowly in the oven on a low heat.
1 leek – sliced
1 carrot – sliced
3 garlic cloves
Place the ingredients in a deep oven dish and cover with a lid or tin foil. cook on a high heat for 30 mins then a low heat for a further 2 hours.
Serve with mashed potato and cabbage
Fig and Carob Cake
In the Algarve town of Tavira, I stopped for coffee in a Pastelaria and came across this wonderful cake using local produce from the region – figs, almonds and carob.
100g of plain flour
200g of light brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
100g carob powder
3 tbsp olive oil
100g of chopped almonds
200g of chopped figs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 355 deg F / 150 deg C.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites into a creamy consistency. Set aside. Mix together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, carob powder, sugar and honey. Add the olive oil, almonds, figs and milk. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and then fold in the whites. Pour the mixture into a greased baking tray.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Dust with icing sugar and decorate with a dried fig.
One of the best things about travelling along the Portuguese coast is the abundance of fresh fish to be found in the village markets. Here are some very simple fish recipes I have created using the local produce.
Mixed fresh fish pieces
1 small onion – diced
1 carrot – chopped
4 small new potatoes – diced
Vegetable stock cube
Some white wine
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Gently fry the onion in the olive oil until golden. Then add the vegetables (cabbage on top), stock and white wine. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer. Place the pieces of fish on top of the vegetables so that they steam. Simmer for 20 mins adding salt and pepper to taste.
Fried fillet of fish with sweet potato
Fillet of conger eel or similar white fish
Sweet potato – peeled and sliced
Salad to garnish
Gently fry the fish fillet in a teaspoon of olive oil. Add ground pepper as frying and then squeeze over the lemon when done.
Fry the sweet potato slices in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dry on kitchen towel when done.
Serve with fresh salad leaves and tomatoes with a slice of lemon.
Tripas a Moda da Porto
This recipe is a symbol of the Oporto people’s generosity. According to legend, when Henry the Navigator was preparing his ships to conquer Ceuta in 1415 he asked the people of Oporto to donate supplies to stock the Portuguese navy. So they did, to such an extent, that all they had left to eat was tripe. However, they didn’t starve, but instead created this recipe, which gave them the nickname of “tripeiros” or “tripe eaters”.
1½ pounds tripe, cut into 1½-inch squares
1 pound meaty veal shank
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup dried white beans
½ pound garlic-seasoned smoked pork sausage
¼ pound lean smoked ham
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons lard
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small bay leaf
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Combine the tripe, veal shank and salt in a saucepan and pour in enough cold water to cover the meat by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off the foam as it rises to the surface. Then, partially cover the saucepan, reducing the heat to its lowest point and simmering for at least 2 hours, until the tripe is tender.
Meanwhile, bring the beans to a boil over high heat and boil briskly for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Then, bring them to a boil in the soaking water, lower the heat and simmer partially covered for 1 to 1½ hours. Drain the beans thoroughly and set aside.
While the beans are cooking, place the sausages in a frying pan. Add enough cold water to cover them completely, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low, allowing them to simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
Drain the sausages and place them with the ham in another saucepan. Pour in enough cold water to cover the meats by at least 1 inch boil over high heat. Skim the surface of all foam, reduce the heat and simmer partially covered for 15 minutes.
Add the carrots and half of the sliced onions and simmer for another 15 minutes, until the meats and vegetables are tender. Drain in a large sieve set over a bowl. Let the broth rest a few minutes, then skim the surface of all fat.
Set the meats and the vegetables and broth aside.
Caldo Gallego is the traditional dish of Galicia, Spain. This warming soup is inexpensive, nutritious and a great way to warm up.
8 oz (225 gr) dry white beans
32 oz (1 liter) water
1 ham bone
1 veal (or beef) bone
1 oz (20 gr) pork fat
2 handfuls fresh turnip leaves
2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes
salt to taste
Rinse the beans and put in a pot with water. Soak overnight.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces. In a large pot with about 2 cups of water, put the bones, beans and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the beans are half cooked (30-60 minutes depending on the beans), remove the bones and add the pieces of potato and continue to simmer.
Boil a second pot of water. Place the turnip leaves in the pot and boil for 5 minutes. Pour out the water and replace with 2 more cups of water. Bring to a boil again and cook for another 5 minutes. (This releases the acidity of the leaves and they also turn the water very green.) Remove the turnip leaves and place in the pot with the potatoes and beans. Add the pork fat and water if necessary.
Tarta de Santiago
Tarta de Santiago is a traditional cake well-known in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Almonds form the base and this cake has a decoration of the Cross of the Order of Santiago dusted on the top in icing sugar.
For the base:
4 oz sugar
2 cups of flour
a spoonful of water
For the filling:
8 oz sugar
8 oz of ground almonds
icing sugar for decoration
Base – beat the egg with a spoonful of water, the sugar and a little cinnamon. Gradually add the flour until it forms a mixture that can be kneaded. Roll it out with a rolling pin and line the bottom of a tin that has been greased and sprinkled with flour beforehand.
Filling – whisk the eggs with the sugar and the lemon rind. Add the ground almonds and the cinnamon. Fill the tin with this mixture and place in an oven pre-heated to 180ºC for about 25-30 minutes.
cut out a St. James cross out of cardboard, place it in the middle of the tart and dust the whole tart with icing sugar. When you remove the cross, the shape will remain engraved on the tart.
These are strange looking shellfish resembling a dinosaurs foot. This popular tapas delicacy is found along the rugged coasts of Galicia, especially near dangerous cliffs, a perfect habitat for these goose-neck barnacles which attach themselves to the rocks pounded by the surf and feed off plankton and other small crustaceans brought by the waves. Fishermen risk their lives to harvest the percebes, explaining the high prices for this delicacy, up to €60 per kilo.
Method of preparation: lightly boil with just a touch of salt and a bay leaf, then serve piping hot on a plate covered by a napkin.
Method of eating: pinch the foot between your thumb and finger and pull the tasty inner tube out of its case, twist off the claw and swallow
Best eaten with a chilled, crisp Albarino wine from southern Galicia.
Pigeon with Prunes
Game birds are very popular in rural France and in the town of Saint Pourcain I found some excellent pigeon with prunes.
4 young pigeons
flour, for dusting
50 g lard
1 rasher bacon
1 onion, skinned and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
225g tomatoes, chopped
50g mushrooms, wiped
600 ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 bouquet garni
pinch of sugar
225 ml red wine
Dust the pigeons in flour. Melt the lard in a pan and brown the birds then remove and place in a deep casserole. Add the bacon and chopped vegetables and mushrooms to the fat remaining in the pan and fry them.
Add the stock, herbs and sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Push through a sieve, adjust the seasoning and add 100ml wine. Pour the liquid over the birds and simmer in a closed casserole for approx 2 hours.
Meanwhile, simmer the prunes in the rest of the wine until tender and remove the stones.
Place the birds on a serving dish and pour over the sauce. Garnish with the prunes.
Rice Timbale with Tomato Sauce
This is a popular dish from Liguria in Italy. It works well as a vegetarian option or alternatively as a side dish, perhaps with some fresh fish.
400g strong cheese – e.g. pecorino and parmesan, or aged cheddar
1 small onion – finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper to season
Cook the rice in boiling water, then drain carefully.
Grease and ovenproof baking dish and place a layer of rice in the bottom. Cover with a thin layer of the grated cheese and season. Add another layer of rice and then cheese and continue until all is used.
Bake the rice timbale for 20 mins in and oven at gas 4 / 180 deg C, until it has turned golden.
Lightly fry the onion in some olive oil until soft. Then add the tomatoes and parsley and season to taste. Simmer for 5 mins on a low heat.
Place a few spoons of the tomato sauce on a plate and top with a wedge of the timbale.
Alternatively, if you don’t have access to an oven, you can make the rice in a saucepan and use a mould, such as a ramekin dish or biscuit cutter to make individual servings.
It’s always difficult to find alternatives to bread when you don’t eat wheat but this flatbread recipe, made with chickpea flour, is common in Northern Italy. It’s also very tasty and many varieties can be found, flavoured with different herbs or spices. This one is made with rosemary.
•210g chickpea flour, which can be made by grinding dried chickpeas to a very fine powder
•3 tbsp. olive oil
•1/2 tsp. salt
•1 tsp. dried rosemary
Mix the water with the chickpea flour, 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and the salt. Cover and leave to stand for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 240 deg C, heat a cast iron pan or baking tray then add the 2 tbsp. of oil.
Add the rosemary to the batter and pour into the pan. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
Instead of rosemary you could use other dried herbs or spices.
Rabbit in Honey Mustard Sauce
Rabbit is not a very popular dish in the UK but is found frequently in country restaurants and supermarkets in mainland Europe. It goes very well with a honey mustard sauce.
Rabbit pieces – if buying a whole rabbit, get the butcher to chop it into suitable pieces.
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of honey
2 tablespoons of dry white wine
Marinate the rabbit in a paste of the mustard, honey and wine. Shallow fry the rabbit pieces in olive oil. When cooked through, remove and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.
Serve with mashed potato, sautéed leeks and grilled mushrooms.
This goes nicely with the Tuscan wine Vernaccia from the hilltop village of San Gimignano.
Lentil with Lardons and Lavender Honey
Many years ago, when I was travelling the route of the Cathar Castles in the French Pyrenees, I stayed at a guesthouse where I was served puy lentils with lardons (small bacon pieces). This is a variation on that recipe incorporating lavender honey from Provence.
200g Lentils (any variety will work but I prefer to use puy lentils)
1 clove of garlic
1 small onion – finely chopped
If using dried lentils then soak and cook as indicated on the packet. Alternatively you can use precooked lentils.
Gently fry the onion and garlic until soft, then add the lentils and fry for 5 mins.
Add two teaspoons of lavender honey and the prepared/precooked lentils. Simmer for 10 mins.
Serve with crusty bread and a nice red wine from the Luberon Valley.
Chou Farci – Stuffed Cabbage
Cabbage is one of my staple vegetables and this is my variation on the French dish chou farci.
Large cabbage leaves
Wash the cabbage leaves and remove the hard stalk piece. Blanch for a few minutes in boiling water until soft. Set aside on a chopping board.
Fry the finely chopped onions and the meat from inside the sausages. Add the chopped tomatoes and the herbs and simmer for 10 mins. Add tomato paste to thicken the sauce.
Take a cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of meat sauce in the centre. Carefully fold the cabbage leaf to enclose the meat sauce and wrap tightly in cling film to form a ball. Repeat to make other portions.
Place the cabbage balls, in their cling film, in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes.
To serve, unwrap the cabbage balls from the cling film and place each on a plate. Serve with mashed potato.
All I Pebre
This is a typical recipe that I tried in the Albufera – eel in a sauce.
• A thick slice of bread
• Six cloves of garlic
• Black pepper
• A sweet- paprika spoonful
• White wine
• Vinegar (one glass or less)
• Olive oil
• 1/2 L of water
In a frying pan slowly fry the bread and the garlic. Grind in a mortar then add the pepper and finally the wine and vinegar. Then add the oil and the sweet paprika.
Boil the mixture with the water and the eel on top. Simmer for about twenty minutes, seasoning to taste, then serve.
Yemas de Santa Teresa
A local treat from Avila made from egg yolks and named after Saint Teresa who lived there.
- 3 oz (75 ml) water
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- peel from 1/2 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup icing sugar
To make the syrup – measure the water and sugar into a medium saucepan. Dissolve the sugar, while bringing the water to a boil. Add the lemon peel and cinnamon stick and continue to simmer until the mixture is a thick syrup, stirring often. Remove from heat, and remove peel and cinnamon.
Separate the yolks from the whites and using a whisk, lightly beat the egg yolks.
Pour the beaten egg yolks into the saucepan with the syrup. Put the heat on the lowest setting, and stir the mixture slowly and continuously for 3-4 minutes, until the yolks begin to solidify. Remove from the heat and spoon onto a plate. Allow to cool.
Once the mixture is cool, sprinkle icing sugar through a sieve onto the countertop. Place the yolk mixture on top and roll it to cover in sugar. Pinch off a small bits (about the size of a walnut) and roll them into a balls, covering in icing sugar. Place the yemas on a plate and chill in refrigerator.
Basque Black Bean Stew
This recipe is based on a black bean stew that I had in Bilbao but traditionally the local Basque dish uses beans from Tolosa. The recipe can be made with dried beans or tinned beans and kidney beans make a good substitute. The Cantabrian version uses white fava beans.
1 lb (500 g) black beans
2 tbsp olive oil
3 oz white wine
4 small Spanish chorizo sausages
1 black sausage (similar to black pudding)
1 piece of thick fatty bacon, chopped into large chunks
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 green pepper
salt and pepper
If using dried beans: Rinse beans. Place in large pot and cover with water. Soak overnight (or 8 hours). Rinse the beans, and add more water to cover. Add olive oil and bring to the boil. Then simmer for about 45 minutes. Check frequently and add water to cover as necessary.
Prick the sausages with a fork to release flavor, and add to the beans. Also add the blood sausage and bacon along with the white wine. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes, adding water as necessary.
While beans are simmering, chop onion and green pepper. Peel and slice garlic cloves. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and add onion, pepper and garlic. Slice the white portion of the leek very thinly. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add leek and continue to sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Add sautéed vegetables to beans and mix thoroughly. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until nice and thick in texture. Serve hot with crusty bread.
Another calorie-laden cake, this time from the Basque region using the local black cherries.
3 1/4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
9 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon oil
1/2 teaspoon almond oil
1 cup almond flour
2 1/4 cups milk
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
6 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup black cherries, from a tin (drained)
egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of milk, for brushing
The pastry: In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. Then beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks along with the whole eggs, lemon oil, and almond oil. Beat until they are thoroughly mixed. Gradually beat in the flour mixture and the almond flour.
Put the dough onto a work surface and split it into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until very firm, at least 4 hours.
The filling: In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over moderate heat with the vanilla seeds. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the cornflour with the sugar and flour. Add the hot milk to the cornflour mixture, then pour back into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is bubbling and thick. Add the egg yolks and the whole eggs and simmer, whisking, for another 3 minutes. Pour the pastry cream into a large, heatproof bowl. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the first disk of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness and cut out a 12-inch round. Slide the round onto a lightly floured baking sheet.
Roll the second disk out to a 1/4-inch thickness, and cut out a second 12-inch round. Place it in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Lightly press the dough onto the bottom and up the side of the pan. Trim off the excess and refrigerate the tart shell until firm.
Pour the pastry cream into the tart shell and dot with the cherries. Cover the tart with the first round of dough and press gently to seal the edges. Brush the tart with the egg wash. Using a fork or skewer, lightly score the top of the tart in a diamond pattern.
Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the tart and transfer it to the upper third of the oven. Bake the tart for about 40 minutes longer, until golden brown on top. Transfer the tart to a large wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, in wedges.
Lamproie à la Bordelaise
A Lamproie (Lamprey) is a jawless fish that looks like an eel. They can found in the Garonne River in France, where they swim from the Atlantic to spawn. They have been eaten in France, Spain and Britain since Roman times.
Ingredients (for 6 people):
1 lamprey eel
1 bottle of Bordeaux wine (e.g. Saint-Emilion)
15 cl of groundnut oil
1 large onion
2 slices of ham, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
4 table spoons of flour
1 bouquet garni
8 large leeks
5 cl cognac
salt and pepper to season
Tie up the lamprey by the head and cut into the tail with a knife, after positioning it above a bowl to collect the blood. Let the blood drain out completely (at least 2 hours).
Plunge the fish into boiling water and remove the central cord, the head, tail and eggs. Clean it under running tap water.
Cut the lamprey into sections of about 4-5 cm and place them in a marinade of wine.
In a pan, fry the shallots, onion and ham in the oil. Add the crushed garlic, flour and wine from the marinade, add the bouquet garni and leave to simmer gently for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Chop the leeks into pieces and fry gently, then add to the sauce.
Brown the pieces of lamprey and then transfer them into the pan. Cook for 1 more hour.
Thicken the sauce with the lamprey’s blood.
Baked Oysters with a Leek Fondue
This recipe comes from “Le Relais des Salines” in Petit Village on the Ile d’Oleron
1 cup white wine
7 oz melted butter
2 oz chopped shallots
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 thinly chopped leeks
1 cup light cream
salt and pepper
Open the oysters and remove water from shells but keep the oysters in shells.
In a bowl make a “beurre blanc”: stir the shallots, white wine, butter, lemon juice. Then stir in cream.
Pan fry the leek with butter and add the leeks to the cream mixture.
Keep warm. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake oysters for 5 min in a hot oven. Remove and pour water out from the shells into
the cream mixture.
Set oysters on plates and pour over each one some of the leek and cream mixture.
Cod fillet poached in muscadet with garlic and herbs
One of my own recipes using muscadet from Le Fief Saint Mars.
2 cod fillets
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of herbs de Provence
Cabbage, sliced thinly
Fry the onion and garlic gently in the oil. Add the muscadet and lay the cod fillets on top.
Sprinkle with herbs and cover with cabbage. Cover and allow to simmer for 20 mins.
Ostrich steaks with chestnut cream and goats cheese potatoes
This recipe of my own creation uses the ostrich fillets that I bought in Guidel and the sweet chestnuts that I found while walking in Carnac. The potatoes are inspired by a lunch that I had in the town of Concarneau.
2 ostrich steaks
A dozen sweet chestnuts
10ml oil and 10g butter
4 spoons of single cream
3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thickly
50g goats cheese
Salt and pepper
If using fresh chestnuts, soak overnight and peel.
Boil the chestnuts for 30 mins, then drain and blend in a food processor. Add 2 spoons of cream and place to one side.
Parboil the potatoes, then layer in an ovenproof dish, dotting with goats cheese and seasoning as you go. Pour over the remaining cream and place in a medium oven for 30 mins.
Fry the fillets in a mixture of oil and butter for 2 or 3 mins each side. Keep warm in some tin foil.
Add the chestnut cream to the meat juices and heat gently. Season to taste.
Serve the fillets with the chestnut cream, potatoes and fresh carrots.
A classic Brittany dessert. Kouign amann actually means “bread and butter”. Sugar is not mentioned in the title but there is plenty of it in this sweet pastry. I first tasted this in the medieval village of Locronan.
500 g of flour
275 g of butter
200 g of sugar
2 cups of water
20 g of yeast
1 pinch of salt
Dissolve the yeast in warm water, add flour and salt. Combine the ingredients by stirring vigorously, then allow to stand and rise in a cool place for about 1 hour.
Roll the dough out on a floured board. Spread the stick of butter in a uniform layer over the dough, then powder with sugar. Fold the dough in four and allow to rest for ten to fifteen minutes. Repeat this operation 4 times, letting the dough rest for 10 minutes between each repetition.
Grease a circular baking tray and place the dough in it. Let rest for 20 minutes, while the oven preheats at a setting of 6/7 (200/210 deg C). Glaze with egg and bake for 25 minutes.
Discovered and eaten while staying in Mont-Saint-Michel.
1 teaspoon oil
A pinch of salt
1 litre milk
Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Make a hole in the middle and add the beaten eggs, oil and salt. Then slowly add the milk and mix together to form a smooth paste. Roll the prunes in some flour then add to the mix the pour into a cake tin. Cook for about 1 hour at 200 degrees until the surface turns golden.
Pork with pommeau and cider
Recipes from the Calvados producer Pierre Huet in Cambremer.
In a large pan , seal the pork fillet in 20g of butter. Add to the pan the onion, carrot, cabbage and sausage. Add the pommeau and cider and reduce the alcohol for 5 mins. Add a glass of water, season and cover. Cook for 30 mins over a low heat.
To serve, place the onion/cabbage on a plate and lay slices of pork and sausage on top. Cover with the sauce and add the remaining butter on top.
Cocktail – Le Normand
4/10 orange juice
A dash of grenadine