bien cuit

Rillettes of fresh mackerel

Uncategorized | May 24, 2017 | By


I’m always looking out for new, interesting and easy ways to incorporate more oily fish into our diet. And as much as I like an occasional piece of salmon, I do find it a very rich fish. I’m also aware how important it is to use more sustainable oily fish like mackerel, sardine and herring, rather than farmed fish. 

The inspiration came from a shopping trip with a friend in Paris – Shirley was looking for nautical charts and I spotted a shelf of cookbooks for galley cooks. I read a recipe similar to this and thought it sounded simple, fresh and delicious – just my style!
This was served as the starter at a charity event held at my home earlier this spring (you might already have seen the recipe for the dessert course, the rhubarb, almond and polenta cake here). This mackerel recipe was declared ‘affa fine’ by my lovely Scottish friend Issi who took the first two beautiful photos seen above. High praise indeed.
I find the sight of sparklingly fresh mackerel at the local market rather hard to resist these days, now that I have a great recipe to use them in. But on holiday on the Ile de Ré this week I opted for a simpler version* using canned mackerel in brine and I have to say I think it was ‘affa fine’ too.. and  ‘affa easy’ to boot!
Use whatever dairy you have to hand – Greek yogurt, whole milk yogurt, crème fraiche or even regular cream and a little extra lemon juice. I was lucky enough to forage some wild fennel this week on the Ile de Ré, so used that instead of dill, and if you don’t like dill, leave it out.


Fresh mackerel rillettes

(serves 6)

3 medium fresh mackerel
a splash of white wine or vermouth (optional)
2 tbsp dijon/wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp Greek yogurt or crème fraîche
2 spring onions, finely chopped
4 cornichons, very finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped (optional)
fresh dill, finely chopped, to taste (optional)

  1. Fillet the mackerel or ask the fishmonger to do it for you.
  2. Place the fillets in a pan, add just enough water to cover and add a little white wine or vermouth, if desired.
  3. Bring up to a simmer then turn OFF the heat, cover with a lid and leave for 20 mins.
  4. Drain the fish, and remove the skin and any remaining bones. Set aside to cool completely.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  6. Add the flaked mackerel and mix well. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning, adding more lemon or olive oil if needed.
  7. Chill until serving with a little dressed watercress salad, or cucumber sticks and GF crackers if desired.

*Easy (holiday) version – use 2 cans of mackerel in brine instead of the fresh mackerel and start the recipe from step 4.

Teaching in Singapore!

classes | May 12, 2017 | By

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m going to be teaching a few gluten free baking classes for friends old and new in Singapore  next month. There are still a few spaces left for some of the classes, so if you know anyone in that part of the world who might be interested then please let them know!

The classes I’m running are:

  1. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free on June 13
  2. Lisa’s favourites on June 14
  3. French Bakes on June 15

You can find booking details on the One Degree Gluten Free website here.


Fruit and nut breakfast loaf

breads, breakfast | May 10, 2017 | By

Here’s a lovely loaf to serve for breakfast, toasted or plain, or later in the day with cheese. I made it as mid-morning taster for my students today. It got a thumbs up all round – chewy, crusty…just like REAL bread!

It is based on the seeded wholegrain loaf found here. Measure the grains out and soak them during the day, finish it off in the evening, bake and there you are – a delicious breakfast to wake up to! Make it in a shallow square tin and cut it horizontally into two layers to maximise the crust.

As always use my suggestions for the fruit and nuts as just that, a suggestion only. I happen to love figs with their gritty chewiness, but I know they are not everyone’s cup of tea. Another time I make it I might use apricots and almonds, or cranberries, pistachios and pumpkin seeds (a combination that for me always screams Christmas!). One thing’s for sure – there will be a next time!

Did I mention it makes fabulous crusty, chewy toast?!

This loaf keeps well and lasts about 4-5 days at room temp. Do please leave me a comment if you make it.


Fruit and nut breakfast loaf

90g (1/2 cup) raw buckwheat groats
100g (1/2 cup) uncooked brown rice
90g (1/2 cup) uncooked millet
water + 1tbsp cider vinegar for soaking
20g psyllium husk
250ml water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
40g whole hazelnuts
40g dried figs, chopped
20g raisins or sultanas

for tin:
knob of butter

1. Place all the wholegrains in a large bowl, cover with water, add 1 tbsp cider vinegar, stir and leave overnight 12-24 hours to soak.
2. The next day drain and rinse the grains thoroughly, then drain well again and place in a food processor or Thermomix.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan). Grease a 20cm square tin with butter.
4. Measure the water in a small bowl, add the psyllium, stir and set aside for 5 mins to gel.
5. Place the 2 tbsp vinegar, bicarb, salt and gelled psyllium in with the grains and process until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally.
6. Add the nuts and fruit and mix to combine.
7. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula. Score with a blade.
9. Bake for 60 mins then remove from the oven, remove from the tin and return to the oven shelf (without a tin) for a final 20 mins to brown the bottom crust.
11. Remove and cool on a cooling rack until completely cold before slicing. Slice horizontally to make larger slices.

Rhubarb and orange polenta cake

cakes, desserts | May 2, 2017 | By

Rhubarb is a quintessential taste of spring. The first pink stalks are eagerly awaited in the markets in France from late April onwards. Bizarrely the French seem to prefer mammoth-sized stalks, so a friendly chat with the stallholder in my local market usually results in him agreeing to pick me out all the tender thin stalks that his compatriots aren’t so keen on. The French also recommend peeling their rhubarb – something that has never made sense to me, as along with the skin you remove most of that gorgeous colour.

If you want to make even more of that amazing colour when you’re poaching rhubarb then you have a few options – you can add a shot of cassis to the poaching syrup or alternatively another trick I read about on the lovely Mad about Macarons blog recently is to add some dried hibiscus flowers to the pan. 

This recipe came about as I wracked by brains trying to think of a suitable dessert for a Spring-themed charity lunch I held at home recently. I love flat Italian style polenta cakes – they are so delicious warm from the oven, but are also very easy to dress up for dessert with a little crème fraîche, crème anglaise or ice cream.

It was a recipe certainly worth working on, as everyone absolutely loved it at the lunch. I plan to make it again later in the year when the apricots are in the market, although I might swap the orange and cardamom flavourings for lemon zest and a little amaretto. If you make it, do leave a comment!

By the way, I have made this using the ‘instant’ type polenta that is finely ground and also the coarser maize grits, and both worked well.


Rhubarb, almond and polenta cake (serves 8+)

300g young thin stalks of fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp demerara sugar

175g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
200g ground almonds
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange (untreated), finely grated
juice of half an orange
75g polenta, fine or coarse 
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
seeds from 10 cardamom pods, ground in a pestle and mortar
2 tbsp flaked almonds

  1. Mix together the rhubarb and demerara sugar and set aside for an hour.
  2. Grease the sides and base of a 9” 22cm spring from cake tin. Line the base with a circle of baking parchment.
  3. After the rhubarb has macerated, drain it in a sieve over a bowl and then preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan).
  4. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the ground almonds, and then the eggs, one at a time.
  6. Fold in the vanilla, orange zest and juice.
  7. In a small bowl combine the polenta, baking powder, salt and ground cardamom.
    Fold this dry mixture into the wet one.
  8. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Arrange the drained rhubarb evenly over the surface and then scatter the flaked almonds over.
  9. Bake for about 75 mins until the centre springs back when touched and the mixture is dry to the point of a knife or skewer. Cover the top loosely with foil if it is browning too much for the last 15 mins.
    Best served warm.