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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.

Fig & orange tart

Uncategorized | September 7, 2016 | By

The best figs I have ever eaten were from my friend’s tree on the Ile de Ré – lovingly wrapped individually in kitchen paper and transported to me with great care and attention in an empty shoe box. I can only imagine what they would have tasted like directly from the tree and still warm from the sun.

If you only have a package of figs bought from the supermarket then this is a great way to spruce them up a bit. I made it for my monthly book club meet up and there wasn’t a whole lot left…

This recipe uses my flour blend and makes a lovely sweet pastry tart case. It is unusual as in this recipe there is no blind baking involved at all. If you use the tart pastry in another recipe stipulating blind baking, then line your tin(s) with the pastry, prick the base all over with a fork and bake it blind at 180C/160C Fan. It will take about 10-15mins (until it looks dry on the surface) if you’re using it for a recipe that needs a second bake once filled, and 15-25 mins if the filling is already cooked separately and no second bake is required.

Yes, you read it right, no messing around with baking beans for this recipe. Your eternal thanks are duly noted.

Fig and orange tart
For the orange pastry cream
  1. 2 egg yolks
  2. 50g caster sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour in UK)
  4. 250ml full fat or semi-skimmed milk
  5. grated zest of half an orange
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. pinch of sea salt
  8. 1 tbsp cold butter, unsalted
For the pastry
  1. 150g my four flour blend
  2. 30g icing sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  4. pinch of sea salt
  5. 80g cold unsalted butter
  6. 1 egg
  7. 12-15 small fresh figs, halved lengthways
  8. 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  9. 2 tbsp caster sugar
  1. 1. Make the pastry by combining the flour, icing sugar, xanthan gum and sea salt. Add the butter, cut into cubes and rub into the mixture until it looks like gravel - with some larger pieces of butter still visible NOT like sand. If you use a food processor then use the pulse function for several second long bursts.
  2. 2. Add the egg and combine to a dough. Wrap in a piece of cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours (or pop in the freezer for 30mins).
  3. 3. Meanwhile make the orange pastry cream. In a medium bowl using a whisk, mix the egg yolks, half the sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, vanilla, sea salt and about 50ml of the total measured milk to make a paste.
  4. 4. Heat the remaining milk and sugar until it just starts to come to a boil, then slowly add it to the orange and egg yolk paste, whisking all the while. Return the custard to the saucepan and bring to the boil, whisking all the time. The mixture will thicken as you let it bubble gently for 10 secs. Remove it from the heat, still whisking, add the butter, whisk again and then transfer it to a clean dry bowl. Cover the surface with cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours.
  5. 5. Place a rectangular flan tin on a baking tray. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm until it is large enough to line the tin. If the pastry gets too warm to handle, place the rolled out dough on a cutting board or baking sheet and allow it to cool and harden in the fridge.
  6. 6. Remove the top clingfilm, place your hand under the rolled out sheet of pastry and flip it into the tin. Press the pastry dough into the corners of the tin, patching if necessary. Remove the top layer of cling film. Trim the top edges of the pastry level with the top of the tin and put the tin on its tray back in the fridge for 30mins to harden.
  7. 7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan.
  8. 8. Spread the pastry cream in the lined tin evenly. Arrange the halved figs on top, cut side up. Brush the surface of the figs with melted butter and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.
  9. 9. Place in the oven and bake for 20mins. Turn the tin around, place a piece of aluminium foil loosely over the top of the tart (without pressing it down) to prevent the figs from browning too much. Bake for a further 20mins.
  10. 10. Remove carefully from the oven (there might be some very hot juices) and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from a recipe by John Baricelli
bien cuit

A taste of childhood – tartelettes aux abricots

Uncategorized | March 14, 2016 | By


Anyone who grew up in France in the 90’s or noughties, or whose children did, is likely to remember these little tartlets. Children the world over seem to leave school in the afternoon absolutely ravenous, even if they haven’t enjoyed a four course lunch such as  the school system in France offers. It was quite a shock when we first arrived in France with children aged 3 and 6, to read the school menu for the week.

Every day the school lunch started with an entrée (in the true French sense of the word, an appetiser or starter, rather than the American term for a main course dish). It might be a salade piémontaise – potatoes, tomatoes, eggs and ham in a mayonnaise dressing, some slices of saucisson or the ubiquitous carottes râpées (for which I blame my youngest’s distrust of any orange foodstuffs, even though he would have you believe it was my less than stellar attempt at a pumpkin risotto chez nous). Next would follow a main course such as roast pork with coquillette pasta, or fish in breadcrumbs with carrots, then a simple cheese or plain yogurt and finally a fruit.

Of course the reality of any food produced centrally and served hours later at outlying destinations is that it is invariably disappointing, however well the menu reads. Nonetheless, hats off – ‘chapeau!’ – to the schools for trying to produce well-balanced, interesting and nutritional meals with more than a whiff of tradition about them.

Back to school leaving time then, the sortie de l’école, when parents would arrive with a range of tempting snacks or goûters for their children. This might be piece of baguette with a square of chocolate pushed inside, a petit pain viennoise, or for the maman completely on the hoof who had come directly from the supermarché, a packet of Bien Vu tartelettes aux abricots.

I found a recipe for these at the excellent French blog La Super Superette, where they have been renamed les bien-goûtues and set about to convert them to gluten free for my son who was coming home from university for Easter. They were great fun to make – now, without two young children in tow. Even my son thought they were super cute and overcame his irrational fear of orange for a sufficient amount of time to empty the tin, once I’d reassured him, of course, that no pumpkins had been harmed in their making. 

Apricot tartlets - tartelettes aux abricots
  1. 180g my flour flour blend
  2. 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  3. 40g sugar
  4. 15g desiccated coconut
  5. 1/8 tsp sea salt
  6. 90g unsalted butter
  7. 1 medium egg
  8. 1-2 tablespoon milk
For the top
  1. 200ml apricot juice or nectar (containing about 50% apricot)
  2. 150g sugar
  3. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  4. 1g agar-agar powder
  1. Mix together the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, coconut and salt.
  2. Add the cold butter and rub in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. add the egg and 1 tbsp milk and mix to a dough. Add the remaining tbsp of milk if needed.
  4. Form into a disc then roll out between 2 sheets of baking parchment to approx 5mm thickness.
  5. Chill the rolled out dough before cutting out the tartlets.
  6. Cut the tartlets out using a small 5cm fluted cutter.
  7. Use a small glass (or even your thumb) to push a slight depression in the centre of the tartlet. Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and prick the depressed base several times with a fork. Chill well for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
  8. When you are ready to bake the tartlets, preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C) and prepare the filling.
  9. Heat the apricot juice,sugar and lemon juice together in a small pan. When boiling, reduce the heat and allow to bubble gently for 20 mins. Then whisk in the agar agar, and allow to bubble gently for a further 5 mins. Allow to cool for 5 mins at least before using.
  10. Meanwhile bake the tartlets for 10-12 mins or until slightly golden. Allow to cool before filling.
  11. Fill the centre of each tartlet carefully with the apricot mixture, being careful it does not overflow the edge of the depression. Allow to sit for 5 mins then add a little more filling if desired.
  12. Allow to set in the fridge for an hour before serving.
  1. You could also use an apricot jam, sieved and then heated with a little water until it makes a thick glaze, for the filling.
Adapted from Les Bien-Goûtues
Adapted from Les Bien-Goûtues
bien cuit

Converting recipes to gluten free – raisin, choc chip & oat cookies

Uncategorized | December 1, 2015 | By


We are going on a train trip tomorrow to see the marchés de Noël in Strasbourg – reputed to be the best in France. Part of the excitement is the train trip itself, a few days away in a new place and the chance to drink vin chaud and eat cookies at unreasonable hours of the day (and night).

Sometimes it’s nice to look up an old gluten-filled favourite and accept the challenge of converting it to an edible gluten free version. I know it’s something that a lot of people struggle with so I thought I’d show you how I go about it.

I was in the mood for something wholesome on a purely superficial level, so I opted for this recipe of Katie Stewart’s – rolled oat and raisin cookies, from her 1990 book ‘Entertaining with Katie Stewart’, an oldie but goodie. Oats, dried fruit, butter and enough brown sugar to slay a reindeer at fifty paces. That will do nicely.

The original recipe calls for :

100g SR wholemeal flour
pinch salt
100g rolled oats
50g seedless raisins
25g chopped walnuts
100g butter
100g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp water

What I did:

1. Sub the flour.

Add 1 tsp GF baking powder per 125g of four flour blend to make it self-raising.

So for this recipe using 100g flour, I added a scant 3/4tsp of GF baking powder to 100g of my four flour blend.

2. Replace the gluten. We need to add a binder, either xanthan gum, psyllium husk or pixie dust, so our cookies don’t fall apart.

If using xanthan gum I add it in roughly the following amounts:

Cookies 1/4 tsp per 125g flour
Muffins and cakes 1/2 tsp per 125g flour
Breads up to 1 tsp per 125g flour

If I am using psyllium husk I use 2-3 times the amount of xanthan gum.

If I’m using pixie dust as a binder then I use the following amounts:

For cakes, muffins and cookies 1/2 tsp xanthan gum = 10g pixie dust
For breads 1 tbsp xanthan gum = 30 – 40g pixie dust

There are no hard and fast rules about which to use when. I’m a firm believer in trial and error, but also an advocate of keeping a kitchen journal so you know what worked and what didn’t. Personal preference also plays a role – I am trying to do away with as much xanthan gum as possible as I simply can’t tolerate it.

In this case I decided to use psyllium husk, 1 tsp.

3. Make any personal changes depending on what you have to hand. I have two types of GF oats at the moment. Some from the UK which are quite fine and traditional in type, and also some jumbo (coarse, old-fashioned oats). I decided to use 50g of each.

I had also run out of soft brown sugar so used 80g of soft brown and 20g of white sugar. I find a mixture often works well in cookies. Brown sugar gives colour, taste and a bit of chew, white sugar adds crispness.

I personally don’t like nuts in cookies. But I do like chocolate and happened to have some mini GF chocolate chips in my cupboard that I wanted to use up, so I subbed the same weight, 25g of choc chips for nuts.

I omitted the water, as I felt it wasn’t necessary. Why add a binder and then more liquid for the binder to work on?

4. Bake a few as a trial. The recipe says to roll the dough into balls and bake like that. My first cookies stayed very thick and I prefer them to be thinner, so I flattened the balls before baking. Check the baking time for the size of cookie you are making – consider weighing them as you make them so they are uniform. I made slightly larger cookies and found a longer bake at a lower temperature worked best.

5. Taste test. Personally I find these a little sweet and perhaps a tad too buttery.

6. Take a note of what you might try next time. I might reduce the butter and sugar by 20g. I think I might add a little vanilla too. 


So here is my current GF version of Katie’s recipe, with the caveat that **next time I would reduce the butter and sugar slightly and add vanilla extract**:


Raisin, choc chip & oat cookies

based on a recipe by Katie Stewart

100g Lisa’s four flour blend

3/4 tsp GF baking powder

1 tsp psyllium husk

pinch of salt 

100g oats (half rolled, half jumbo)

75g seedless raisins

25g mini chocolate chips

100g butter*

80g soft brown sugar*

20g granulated sugar*

2 tbsp honey

*please read the comments above!


1. Combine the flour, baking powder, psyllium, salt and oats in a bowl. Add the raisins and choc chips.

2. Meanwhile heat the butter, sugar and honey over a low heat until just soft enough to be liquid and combined. Do not allow to get hot.

3. Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Set aside for 10 mins while preheating the oven to 160C (140C fan).

4. Line a baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture (about 24g) roll into a ball then flatten onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20 mins. Allow to cool for 5 mins then place on a wire cooling rack.





So much for the big reveal!

Uncategorized | July 14, 2015 | By


So this was how it was supposed to go:

1. Spend a month messing around on WordPress, doing a bit of font-choosing, layout tinkering.

2. Write some blog posts, take some photos to sparkle on my newly organised blog once launched.

3. Invite a few fab friends and family to take a look and point out any glaring errors.

4. Ask for some professional help if it all gets too much.

5. Go live.


Here’s what actually happened:

1. Spend a week messing about out WordPress.

2. Send a request for support to figure out why I can’t find the ‘add to menu’ page. Clearly there all along.

3. Log in to find the ‘dashboard’ (stop me if I’m getting too technical) looks weird and have a panic attack.

4. Press the ‘go live’ button in error. (Have you seen the Father Ted episode about the red button on the airplane?).


So here I am. Gulp. 

It will get better. I hope.