Monthly Archives: May 2010

Patatas Bravas

Need something quick, easy and tasty to go with drinks? Then go for patatas bravas.

I was at a Eurovision party yesterday (lots of bad taste in music, but good-tasting food), and we had dishes from around the continent. On behalf of Spain, I whipped up a batch of these little beauties. Needless to say, they were a hit and one of this first things to go.

There are a number of ways to make them, but in my view this is the simplest – take white potatoes, peel them, chop into bit-sized chunks, toss in a little salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil, and then bake in the oven until brown. No par-boiling, no deep-frying. Simple! Patatas bravas are usually served either topped with a spicy tomato sauce, or with a side of aïoli (garlic mayonnaise) for dipping.

So next time you have friends round for a drink, you can be a little more sophisticated. You’re not just having snacks, it’s tapas time!

For patatas bravas (serves 4):

• 3-4 large white potatoes
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, finely ground
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Peel the potatoes, and cut into chunks (about 2cm pieces). Put the potato chunks into a bowl, add the oil and seasoning, and toss until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Spread the potatoes on a baking tray, and bake for 40-50 minutes until the potatoes are golden. If you find the potatoes stick to the tray, remove from the oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes – the steam from the potatoes will loosen them.

Serve with aïoli (combine mayonnaise, paprika and a small minced clove of garlic).

Worth making? Yes – this is quick, easy and always popular and delicious. Really worth trying.


Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Lefse – Norwegian Potato Flatbreads

Darn. I missed posting something Norwegian in honour of 17 May, Norway’s national day. I was there a few years ago, and I can honestly say I have never seen so many people in national outfit waving their flag with such enthusiasm. They are Norwegians, they are proud of it, and they want you to know it!

But then…the 55th Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Oslo tomorrow. So, to make amends, here is my attempt at traditional Norwegian lefse. These are soft potato flatbreads cooked on a dry griddle. They were traditionally dried for storage, then revitalised by sprinkling with a little water and allowing to sit until soft. Useful when it is -30°C outside and you don’t really want to put on the snow gear to pop to the local shop.

Now, not actually being Norwegian, I didn’t have a family recipe to hand that I could use. I did a bit of searching, and settled on one of the simplest – just potatoes, flour and salt. I reasoned that this was probably closest to the original recipe. I duly started to make them, but found that the potatoes were so sticky that the dough was unworkable. Even with a lot of flour on the rolling pin, the dough stuck to everything.

I put the mix back in the bowl, added a lot more flour, and success was mine. The dough was still sticky, bit I was able to work with it. I suspect this issue might be more to do with the type of potatoes I used, rather than the flour. If you attempt these, then I think you need less flour if you use “floury” potatoes which are quite dry, and more flour if the potato flesh is waxy and contains more moisture. I used normal white potatoes, but you can probably use anything you have to hand, adjusting the flour accordingly.

Today, you can of course buy lefse, but where is the fun in that? However you get them, there are a variety of ways to eat these, either savoury or sweet. I like to eat these Norwegian-style, spread with butter, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon, and rolled up to enjoy with coffee. I’ll serve a few this way for a Eurovision party on Saturday, and use some as the basis of an open sandwich with Jarlsberg cheese and pickles. Yes, I have the responsibility of bringing something Norwegian!

For 8 lefse:

• 400g cold boiled potatoes
• 200-250g plain flour
• 1 teaspoon salt

Mash the potatoes until smooth (or use a potato ricer). Add the salt and flour and mix to a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into large flat shapes (as thin as you can) on a well-floured surface, approximately 15-20cm diameter. The dough is quite sticky, so you will need to use a lot to stop them adhering to the work surface.

Heat a dry frying pan or griddle to a medium-high heat. Cook each bread on both sides until there are air pockets and coloured patches. The cooked breads will lose their translucent appearance.

Once cooked, remove and allow to cool. Before eating, store the breads under damp teacloths to make them soft. Doing this, even crisp, brittle breads will soften!

For the cinnamon filling:

• 50g butter
• 50g light brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine everything and mix until creamy. Spread on the cool lefse, roll up and eat.

Worth making? Yes. This recipe is quite messy, but it is simple and fun. You might need to experiment with the amount of flour, but just start with 100g, then add more as you feed necessary to get a dough that you feel you can work with. The finished lefse with cinnamon spread are great – chewy, flavoursome and spicy. They also keep pretty well – you can let them dry out, then revive them using a damp teacloth and a little patience.


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Banana Loaf

How do you like to eat bananas? Really, this is a serious question:  yellow or black? Some people will only eat them when they are yellow but still very firm, whereas others (me!) like them when they are very ripe with black skin. Now I realise that the black skin might look as if the banana has gone bad, but it is fine as long as the fruit was not bruised to start with. Peel off the black skin, and the flesh will still be firm, creamy and ripe. They are also amazingly fragrant. You’ve really got to like your bananas to eat them this way, which luckily I do.

One of my favourite things to make with really ripe fruit is a banana loaf. There are two types – either the dark, dense, sticky variety or the lighter cake-type loaf. This is the latter sort, and makes a great teatime treat or accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea. It can be made in a loaf tin or a cake pan, and you can add all manner of extras (chocolate chips, chopped pecans or walnuts, dried sultanas, dried cranberries…). I like to add a generous pinch of cinnamon, and that’s it!

For one banana loaf:

• 150g caster sugar
• 150g unsalted butter
• 2 eggs
• 1 very ripe banana, well mashed
• 225g self-raising flour
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
• pinch of salt
• 5-6 tablespoons of milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper (mine was 8 x 21cm).

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the mashed banana.

Add the cinnamon, flour and salt and combine well. Add enough milk to make a smooth batter (it should drop slowly off the back of a spoon).

Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Worth making? Yes, this is a regular feature in my kitchen. If you are faced with black bananas, this is a great way to use them up. It is also easy, as it takes no more than 10 minutes to make the loaf, and it keeps really well. It comes out as a cake which is easy to slice, so you don’t end up with a “wet” loaf that some other recipes yield.

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Orange Balkava

After Lebanese or Turkish food, I am usually too full for dessert. All those little mezze dishes are deceptive, as you just keep pick-pick-picking at them. Then it’s time for a coffee, you scan the dessert menu – “just to see” – and there you see baklava, coquettishly beckoning you on with the promise of sweetness, nuts, crisp pastry and the fact that as it is so small, you can certainly manage just one little piece. I almost always end up going for it.

I like baklava for those times when you want to have something sweet that does not have chocolate in it and does not have any cream. I love the golden brown, crisp, buttery pastry, and then a syrup-soaked layer of nuts and spices. If I make it at home, I am pretty free and easy with the nuts, but I do favour a mixture of almonds and pistachios with a few pine nuts. This is combined with cinnamon, and sometimes a little vanilla, cardamom or a pinch of cloves, then rounded off with a rose water and orange blossom sugar syrup. I’m going to be a bit big-headed here and declare that my version is pretty good, as guests usually refuse to believe that I made it.

Then, last weekend, I was leafing through the Observer Food Monthly supplement, and I saw something that intrigued me. This was “Istanbul Orange and Vanilla Baklava”, referred to as the “Queen of Baklavas”. This version substituted the nuts for a puree of whole oranges (yes, whole oranges). I have never seen this done before. I’ve seen baklava with different nuts, different pastries (the usual filo or thread-like kadaifi) and different spices or flavours, but the nuts were always a feature. Could this fruity version work?  It would surely be a vibrant-tasting treat, so I thought that it would be worth trying it.

The recipe is taken from the Observer Food Monthly, available here (scroll down for the recipe).

The filling basically involved cooking whole oranges, then preparing a sweet, spiced puree to fill the baklava. I cooked the oranges the night before, then left them to cool before preparing the puree the next day. This is a useful way to do it, as it means you can prepare the baklava the next morning relatively quickly. It all really was super-easy, but I found I had to cook the sugar syrup for about 20 minutes rather than the suggested 10. I also added half a teaspoon of rose water to the syrup as I like the baklava to be really fragrant. You could avoid the “specks” on the cooked baklava by clarifying the butter you use for the filo, but I don’t bother. Just hide them using the chopped pistachio nuts!

Worth making? Wow, did this taste of orange. Not a subtle flavour, but a real citrus-fest in the mouth. I really liked it and it was a lot lighter and fresher than nut baklavas, but it is such a strong taste that I would be inclined to serve it in larger pieces with mascarpone or creme fraiche as a dessert proper, rather than as a post-dinner accompaniment to coffee. I also found that it is best served relatively fresh (really as soon as it has cooled), as the filling is moist and thus does not absorb the sugar syrup the way that a nut-filled baklava would do, meaning that the filo pastry becomes soft quite quickly.


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On Location: Nordic Bakery (Soho, London)

I recently went to a Swedish café, but left broken-hearted when I didn’t have the Scandinavian love-fest I expected (see here).

Why was I so traumatised, you ask? I am a bit of a Swedophile. I lived there, loved it and still have very close Swedish friends. So after not finding cinnamon buns last time, I did a bit of digging and this brought me to the Nordic Bakery near Piccadilly Circus. Surely this place would have what I want? I arranged to meet a friend there, and I went on my merry way. To say that I went there with hopes and dreams on a cinnamon theme would be pretty accurate.

I arrived at the bakery in Golden Square (fab name, nice square full of flowers in the middle of pretty buildings) and I saw Nordic – and the words “Cinnamon Buns” were written in white Helvetica letters. Joy!

As I got there early, I sat down and ordered a rye bread with cheese and gherkin, a cinnamon bun and a coffee. To be accurate, the buns in Nordic are not the Swedish type (kanelbullar) that I had searched for, but the Finnish variety (korvapuusti). I didn’t care. I ordered anyway, and anticipated the sweet, slightly sticky cinnamon-cardamom-yeasty goodness. It arrived, still slightly warm, and I started to pick little bits off. And it was just great. I did get a couple of odd looks from the two Finnish ladies at the next table, but I think they recognised that I appreciated the baked goods on offer. The buns are yeast-risen, with many layers of thin dough and cinnamon paste. It was rich and aromatic, with little moments of fresh cardamom zing. Super, super, super.

My companion arrived, with another friend who was due to move to Paris the next day. I was glad that her final day in London was bathed in glorious sunshine, so she would remember the place at its very best.

We picked out some goodies but in view of the spectacular weather we decamped to the grass on Golden Square. As you can see, the interior of Nordic is great – chic, minimalist black tables and bare wood walls, cutlery and crockery from various Nordic designers. Really, a hundred times better than Fika. However, the lure of the sun was too much to resist. We took our selection outside: more cinnamon buns, rye bread, tosca cake (a moist honey-almond creation), cream cheese and pineapple buns (using yeasty dough rather than puff pastry) and a whole-wheat rice pastry. Each of them was, in turn, delicious, and the coffee was good. We liked that everything was fresh, well-made and delicious, and not overly sweet. Our soon-to-leave-us French friend even tried the cinnamon bun, and declared that this might just have cured her of her previous dislike of the spice which she attributed to Cinnabon’s ubiquity in the US. A triumph!

So…would I go back? 100% yes. In fact…eh….I’ve actally been there again since (twice in less than a week, am I an addict?). It is a lovely, relaxed place in a very busy neighbouhood, which just oozes that Scandinavian relaxed-but–hip vibe. Plus great cinnamon buns. This is what I wanted. I am glad I found it.

The Nordic Bakery, 14 Golden Square, London W1F 9JG. Tel: 020 3230 1077. Tube: Piccadilly Circus


Filed under London, On Location

Sumac Braised Nettles topped with Onion Seeds

The weather on Saturday was glorious in London. I wanted to go and see some countryside, so I jumped in the train from Stoke Newington up to Cheshunt to explore the River Lee park, a network of canals, footpaths and cycle tracks with pockets of woodland, meadow and grassy glades.

The Lee is a tributary of the River Thames, which forms the heart of one of the largest nature parks in or near London. With blue skies, warm air, the fresh green leaves of spring and white flowers of elder and hemlock everywhere, it was truly beautiful. See for yourself below! I will definitely be heading back soon with my bike to see more of the area.

In addition to all the spring flowers, there was also the old scourge of childhood, the stinging nettle. I’ve got to say, the nettles looked pretty impressive in huge drifts along the banks of the rivers and canals. This is spring, so everything looks new and fresh.

Before I set off on my little trip, I had fully expected to come across nettles, and as I had recently seen a recipe in the Observer Food Monthly by chef Silvena Rowe which used them, I came armed with a bag and some gloves. Her recipe involved briefly cooking the nettle leaves, adding them to what seemed like a risotto mixture, then finishing with a good dash of sumac and a generous sprinkling of black onion seeds. I picked a good serving of nettle leaves, then we headed up through the park in the sun. It was hot, and we loved it. A great day out which I can really recommend. Just remember the sunscreen as you are walking along rivers, and you otherwise end up with a very rosy glow by sundown.

Once home, I duly made my nettle dish. While nettles will sting you when you are in the country side or the garden, their sting is neutralised by cooking, and in this case, wilting the leaves in water for a couple of minutes. They also have the advantage of apparently being very, very healthy. I expected this dish to be very much like a risotto…except, it wasn’t. It was delicious, but the texture was more like a rice salad, with a very fresh character from the sumac and onion seeds. The feta provided a strong, salty element to the dish, and on balance, it made a really nice light supper on a hot day. Yes, I was perhaps a little bit red, and a nice light meal was perfect as my body continued to radiate heat long after the sun had set…

If you would like to try Silvena’s recipe for sumac braised nettles topped with onion seeds, you can find it here.

In making it, however, I made a few tweaks. I used less nettles – probably two cups of just the fresh leaves as this was all I had. I needed to add a bit more liquid during the cooking, and I also added quite a bit more sumac than the recipe called for (probably a whole teaspoon in the end). Finally, I coated the top of the feta in more sumac to provide a bit of colour and to contrast with the rice and nettles. While the recipe is supposed to serve four (and this would be true as a side dish), I think it really makes a generous dinner for two.

Worth making? This is a nice dish which I’ll try again as it makes a pleasant change from risotto when you want to make a rice dish. The black onion seeds were particularly good. However, I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that while I am glad I tried this, but I probably won’t be making it again with nettles. It was interesting to try, but I had expected a bit more “wow” from them. While this dish will probably appear on the menu again, it will be with spinach or chard. I guess I’m just not enough of a fan of cooking dinner in a pair of rubber gloves.

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Green Tea Truffles

For a long time, I have wanted to visit the Japan Centre supermarket in the centre of London. This week, I finally made it down there, and picked up a packet of matcha (Japanese green tea powder). It seems like the sort of thing that is useful to have in the store cupboard when you are called upon to produce something innovative and creative. But not having the patience to wait for the perfect excuse to use it, I started to think what I could make with it. Cupcakes? Dull. Cake? Flavour might get lost. Then it hit me: why not try the white chocolate ganache but with matcha? Rather than making a tart, I made truffles. I imagined that the ganache would be a vibrant green, and I was not disappointed.

I’m not usually crazy about white chocolate, as it can be very sweet and a bit cloying. However, as the green tea is grassy and a little bitter, this cuts through the sweetness and leaves the truffles with a lovely creamy taste with a little bit of a tang. These truffles seem really sophisticated, but are, in truth, really quick and simple to prepare. A really nice accompaniment to tea or as a little something sweet at the end of a meal.

Just a word of warning though: I rolled the first truffle in pure matcha. Way too powerful. The rest were rolled in 50/50 icing sugar and matcha, which was much milder/edible. I would recommend either using this mixture or even pure icing sugar (which will contrast nicely with the colour of the matcha-infused filling).

To make 20 truffles:

• 200g white chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon of matcha (green tea powder)
• 1 tablespoon milk
• 85g double cream
• 45g unsalted butter
• 2 teaspoons of matcha and 2 teaspoons of icing sugar, mixed and sieved, for dusting

Put the chocolate in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the milk and 1 teaspoon of match until smooth.

In a saucepan, heat the cream slowly, and boil for 30 seconds. Add the matcha paste and stir well. Pour the hot matcha mixture over the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Leave the mixture to cool, then leave in the fridge until firm (this can take some time). Form the ganache into truffles (it easiest to work it into a ball between two teaspoons, which also creates an attractive “rough” appearance). Roll the truffles in matcha, and store in the fridge. You may need to re-roll the truffles just before serving.

Worth making? If you like green tea, then you will like this. You can adjust the amount of green tea according to taste, but I would caution against more than 1 teaspoon in the above recipe. These make a nice addition to an afternoon tea or an after dinner petit fours selection where you want to offer guests a selection of tastes to try.


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Quick Polenta

My word!  After weeks and weeks of waiting, I finally manage to have dinner outside yesterday evening. It looks like summer has arrived in London, which is a very good thing. Out comes the rosé wine (a little naff, but I love it), wooden terrace table and a range of quick summer suppers. In fact, it is shaping up to be a nice weekend with cloudless blue skies over London.

And what was on the menu for such a momentous occasion? I made a simple polenta, quickly pan-fried it and served it with a warm-ish, thick tomato sauce and a side salad (just broad leaf parsley, chopped tomato, courgette slivers and a little bulgar wheat and a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette). All very light and it suited the warm evening.  What is particularly nice at the moment about sitting in the garden is that the leaves still have the bright green freshness of early summer. Suggests months to come of trips to the seaside, holidays and weekends lazing in the heat in the park. Fingers crossed that it’s going to be a good one this year!

For the polenta (to serve 2):

• 100g instant polenta
• salt, to taste
• pepper, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
• 25g butter
• 25g cheese (parmesan, pecorino…)

Cook the polenta according to the instructions on the packet (as a rule of thumb, usually 200ml water to 50g polenta).  When you add the dry polenta, add the seasoning and spices. You might need to add more water as the polenta is cooking to keep it from becoming too dry. Once ready, stir in the butter and cheese. Pour into a tray and allow to cool. It should set quite firmly. Tip: pour into a non-stick cake tray, then thanks to the butter, it will just come right out.

To cook, simply cut into pieces and fry gently with a little olive oil over a gentle heat until lightly brown. If you like it slightly charred, keep cooking as long as needed.

Serve with tomato sauce and shavings of cheese.

For tomato sauce:

• 2 small onions, very finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
• 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes (use best quality you can)
• salt, to taste
• pepper, to taste
• pinch of sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon of paprika

Fry the onion in a little olive oil until golden. Add the garlic and stir until it is cooked. Add the tomatoes and seasoning. Stir well, then simmer over a gentle heat until the sauce reduces and becomes thick.

Worth making? Oh, I am being a bit repetitive with all my recommendations to try this and that. But this really is a nice supper for the evening, and has the benefit of being gluten-free (and would become dairy-free if you skip the cheese too), so it’s useful to have in the back pocket. It also makes a nice change from pasta when you want something simple, and the polenta can easily be prepared a few hours or even the evening before. If you’re having it as a summer dish, just remember to serve slightly warm rather than hot.


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White Chocolate Tart with Piment d’Espelette

Yes, more Piment d’Espelette! I’ve posted my goat’s cheese fritters with a spicy Piment d’Espelette chutney, and now we move onto the dessert. I also submitted this to the competition run by the association of Piment d’Espelette producers, so again, fingers crossed!

Chocolate and chilli are a common combination (I’ll hold off on “classic” as I am not usually a fan…I want desserts to be sweet, not to burn), but this got me thinking: Piment d’Espelette is not so hot, so would it work in a chocolate dessert for those that don’t like hot chilli? But the colour – I was a little put off by the fact that it would  just look like another dark chocolate dessert. Ah, but what if I were to use white chocolate? I reasoned that the colour of the Piment d’Espelette would diffuse into the cream and chocolate, and the flecks of red would be visible in the finished cake. With these thoughts, I ventured into my kitchen.

One of the rules in the competition was that you had to come up with a recipe from scratch. I sensed that there was potential for my attempts to be rather “unusual”, so rather than making whole tarts, I started making small batches of white chocolate ganache in ramekins to test my ideas.

Attempt number one – create an infusion of Piment d’Espelette and mountain honey in water, then add to the white chocolate. The theory was that this would provide a clean, light flavour, highlighting the Piment. Too bad it didn’t set. In fact, it sort of separated, with a clotted-cream-type crust on top, and then a layer of liquid chocolate, then all the Piment at the bottom. Not a success.

Attempt number two – back to the classic ganache. I put cream, Piment and some mountain honey in a pan, and allowed it to infuse for half an hour. Heated it, added it to chopped white chocolate, stirred until melted, put in a saucepan to melt it properly (as, ahm, not all the chocolate melted first time), then added butter. Result! A smooth filling with a bright peachy-orange colour and flecked with red. It flowed, set as it was supposed to in the fridge, and cut perfectly. I served it at room temperature, and the filling did exactly what I wanted – stayed firm but not hard, but cut easily.

And the taste? The initial flavour was of white chocolate, but then it gives way to the fleshy earthiness of the Piment (like red peppers) and the honey. Then you get the warmth of the Piment, but it does not get hot. I think this is a nice way to use Piment in a dessert, making a feature of it rather than just adding a pinch as decoration. I can imagine that this would also work with other strongly-coloured spices (saffron for a golden ganache) or even with a spoonful of beetroot juice into the cream (if you like bright pink).

For the tart:

• one basic sweet pie shell (see here)
• 300g white chocolate
• 125ml double cream
• 2 teaspoons runny honey (thyme or orange blossom)
• 1 generous teaspoon of Piment d’Espelette (or mild chilli powder)
• 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Mix the honey, cream and Piment d’Espelette in a saucepan and leave to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This allows the cream to take on the colour of the Piment. In the meantime, chop the chocolate into very small pieces and put into a bowl.

Heat the cream mixture, stirring well. Bring to the boil, and cook for 30 seconds. Allow to cool briefly, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir well until the chocolate has melted. If there are still lumps of chocolate, then transfer to the saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer back to the bowl.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the butter and stir until it melts and you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Pour immediately into the pie shell, and shake lightly to smooth the filling off. Allow to cool, then move to the fridge to set. Serve at room temperature, in thin slices.

Worth making? I have tried for a long time to make a white chocolate ganache (for pies, for cakes, for truffles) which stays smooth but sets properly, and I am really happy with this recipe. If you’re not a fan of the Piment,  you could easily omit this, and instead use vanilla and top off with fresh fruit – ripe raspberries or juicy strawberries. It makes an ideal dinner party dessert too – it can be prepared completely in advance, so no running around in the kitchen while your guests have fun.


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Goat’s Cheese Fritters with Spicy Apple Chutney

Live dangerously.

When I given my bottle of Piment d’Espelette, I checked it out online…and found out that there was a competition being run by the local producers’ association (English version here) to come up with new dishes. So…prepare something original. For a critical audience who don’t know me. In French. Dangerous enough?

To enter, there were obviously a few rules to observe: it had to use Piment d’Espelette (duh!), it should be quick and easy to prepare, it should be original, and it should be something that could be prepared on an average family budget. I sent my applications in on Friday night, so I’ll just have to sit tight and see what happens.

To come up with something, I sat down and did a bit of logical thinking. The producers are in the Basque part of France, so some sort of raw vegetable dish was out of the question. These people are likely to prefer a rich, meaty dish for the main course, so my best chances were in the starter or dessert category. So a starter that showcases the Piment d’Espelette…got me thinking about chutney. I reasoned that the Piment d’Espelette would work well, so that the subtle heat would pervade the sauce and mingle with the apple, without dominating. Plus, the flecks of red would show up in the chutney. Next question: what can I serve with a semi-sweet sauce? I thought about goats cheese. And bingo! My entry is a simple cheese fritter coated with a breadcrumb/Piment d’Espelette mixture, gently cooked until golden and crispy, and served with a simple, fresh apple chutney. That was the theory…

Et alors…the chutney. This was super-easy – chop the apples, throw everything in a pot, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Done! On its own I think it is great. It’s a deep burnished amber colour and the Piment d’Espelette does indeed show up as hoped. It’s got heat, but it never gets too much. I am modestly calling this an unmitigated success. I had a little left over after my test, and I’ve been munching it on strong English cheddar as my 11am snack for the past week. Really delicious.

The fritters? Again very simple. The coating was just flour, breadcrumbs and Piment d’Espelette. The goats cheese is rolled into balls, flattened, dipped in egg and coated, and then shallow-fried. I figured this dish would provide a nice series of contrasts – crisp coating, creamy cheese, soft fruity chutney.

Happy with the theory, I made them and duly noted everything down. I’ve got to say, the result was pretty darn good. You need to be really generous with the chutney, but I think the spiciness and gentle heat worked well with the cheese. It’s a nice combination. Let’s see if the competition judges agree!

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