Friday, 2 January 2015


Anyone who knows me well, will know that I make my own mayonnaise. I get this from my mother who was in her 70s before she even allowed purchased mayonnaise to sully her fridge. Which incidentally, is her fridge and not public property (subject of another post). My beloved prefers commercial mayo for certain things but I rarely do. We recently made 2 litres of the stuff for a friend's wonderful Xmas party and usually I make it by hand because it's not that hard to do and you can stir and pour whilst conversing, or drinking a glass of wine.

I learned, early on, that it's the acidity that allows the emulsion to occur and maintains it. My first father-in-law (who was a nuclear physicist) imparted this gem of culinary chemistry to me and suggested always mixing mustard with the egg yolk to begin with. Gentle reader, he was right. A Breton friend with whom I shared this nugget of info, merely shrugged and said "Mais bien sûr!" For a while, I made whole egg mayo using the Kenwood blender (O trusty Kenwood Chef) but what a pain it was to clean everything afterwards, so I reverted to the bowl and wooden spoon method, with an experimental attitude to quantities. Experience led me to believe that the temperature of the ingredients made little difference to the outcome but it is important not ot shock the emulsion by adding too much oil at once.

As per the father-in-law, I always start with mustard - Dijon, naturellement, because that's the one I grew up with and the only mustard I really like, and I'm making the mayo. Sea salt & black pepper. Cider vinegar because it doesn't change the colour like our homemade, red wine vinegar does, and I think that lemon juice is acidic without body. Sunflower or peanut oil (you can use canola but I think it is the spawn of the devil and use it in nothing - ditto soybean oil). And then often I add a proportion of olive oil, depending on how strong the flavour of the oil is and what you are going to do with the mayo. I like a little olive oil but too much can make the mayo bitter. Of course, you can add garlic (sometimes I use homemade garlic olive oil and that's delicious) and herbs, sorrel makes a lovely, fresh, green mayo, tomato purée for Sauce Aurore, wasabi for kicks and so on.

Yesterday, at breakfast, I was reading the Saveur 100 Cooks' Edition which has some interesting stuff in it (see and came across this intriguing snippet about a 20 second mayonnaise. I thank chef Matthew Rudofker for this piece of genius, for which you must own or borrow an immersion or stick blender.

You shove all the ingredients in a tall beaker, put your immersion blender (not the whisk) flat on the base of the beaker, blend for 3 seconds and slowly pull the blender up through the oil, which emulsifies as you go. The recipe says it takes 17 seconds for it all to emulsify but I reckon it was about 7 secs. and I was counting. The result is excellent according to my taster and Duke's mayo devotee (Duke's in the Eastern US and Best Foods in the West).

This isn't a good photo but it is good mayonnaise

Adapted recipe:

1½ Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp mustard
½ tsp salt
1 egg
2 cups oil

So easy and the bonus is that you can keep it in the fridge for a month, if it lasts that long!
Happy blending

Post scriptum: We ate some for lunch with the leftover poached Alaska salmon and the taster now believes that we need never buy mayonnaise again...and also - isn't mayo amazing stuff? I used to think that the Duc de Mahon's cook invented it on a battlefield but Wikipedia tells me that it is not so but I will still refer to it as mahonnaise for my own pleasure.

Thursday, 1 January 2015


Kitchen note New Year's Day - Happy New Year!

Making stock and rendering fats

The yellow kitchen is sunny today, steamy and redolent of the festive meals now long digested. the rib bone of our Christmas day lunch is in the pressure cooker and duck fat has been clarified and strained for storing.  KK has excavated some very old items from the fridge and "rationalized" jars of very aromatic kimchi.
Later on, I'll try out making a galette des rois with the rescued marzipan - if it's too grainy because you didn't grind the sugar long enough, because you were too stubborn to go out and buy caster sugar with additives - good news: heating it gently works to dissolve the sugar.

Admire the new, shiny finish on the work surface!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

First Vin Doux meal

Just to set your minds at rest - last evening's meal was very good. It was elegantly served, well-seasoned, pretty, with some surprises and copious.  
First, the mayor made his second speech in 2 days - he hates making speeches and keeps them very short. 

Jean-Louis orates
First course

 For apéritif I drank a kir royale with crème de pêche - a very elegant drink and I think better than the classic blackcurrant - and it was a discovery for me. We'll be drinking more of that! This sparked a conversation about Champagne and how much our immediate table neighbours like it and me of course, I like it too. And I discovered something else I have to try - soupe de Champagne - which is a red fruit salad with Champagne. The conversation then went on to champagne sauerkraut which surprised me - someone (not me) said what a waste and was roundly defeated - the fresh sauerkraut is cooked in champagne and apparently all is then very well. After that Gilberte mentioned fish sauerkraut and I lost interest in cabbage products and went back to bubbly. Anyway...

First course: iced melon soup with mint, an aromatic grissini with jambon de pays and beetroot sprouts as garnish. Delicious - fresh tasting, nice presentation and surprisingly filling. I really liked the sprouts but they were not universally adored - mostly just ignored.

Second course

Second course: saddle of rabbit with Mediterranean vegetables,  polenta from locally grown organic maize, tapenade (which was delicious with the polenta) and a piece of tomato confit - also excellent. The rabbit was perfectly cooked, which is not necessarily easy with saddle and the medley of vegetables perfectly diced and cooked to an unctuous yet not slimy sauce. My vis à vis had never eaten polenta - she polished it all off, doesn't like olives but ate her tapenade with the polenta and doesn't like peppers but enjoyed the sauce because she couldn't pick out the things she didn't like. Hah! I did see that one old giffer didn't even touch his polenta - his loss I'd say - enormous portions. Oh, and leek sprouts as garnish.

Our just desserts

White chocolate mousse with strawberries and spun sugar. KK says it looked like golden dragonfly wings - truly elegant, beautiful and delicious. Delicate and light as a cloud. Lovely meal - really good food - what more could we ask for???

Pot de l'amitié - Le Vin Doux

Aurélie greeting
Are we happy? Yes, we are. Happy as bubbly, rum punch, wine and tasty nibbles can make a person or 100 odd people, which is quite happy. And noisy. And warm. Lots of happy people came out in the sunny evening to see what was up. They came smiling and stayed quite a while, smiling more and more. 
I was told that the punch was not very alcoholic. I knew better and I was right. The person who made it said it was traitorous and I agree. However, it was delicious with dark and light rum, orange juice, guava 
 juice (yum), cinnamon, vanilla... I did taste it, just to make sure. It really was delicious. Left hand, rum punch, right hand, bubbly. One has to be very sure.

A short speechette by the mayor and a nice welcome speech by Aurélie - Isa disappeared into the kitchen when asked to say anything. The place looks nice, shelves are up in the bar, the footie was on telly for the kids and others. The Illy espresso machine is installed - hello daughter! Basic groceries are available for purchase and local goods will be added. There will be a bar menu for those who want to eat, drink and watch the footie or who are too tired to go home and heat up a frozen pizza. Beer pumps are on and they have gas in the kitchen as from this evening. Isa cooked a lot of the stuff for tonight in her own personal kitchen - hmm. And they still don't have all the cold space they need. 

Me talking to Isa

So, quiche which was universally acclaimed, canapés, pinxos, or toasts - whatever you want to call them with peppers (red and green) topped with mozarella (made for me because I wanted peppers for tomorrow evening and Isa noticed my rude pining behaviour 3 days ago when we chose the menu). Also, she remembered that I am allergic to nutmeg and put no nutmeg in anything - I think I'm in love. Then there were sausage rolls - pretty nice, and my favourite - little choux pastries with smoked salmon, whipped cream, dill and lemon - I know because I asked (only because of the allergies, natch). I had to check they were all right and by the fifth I was pretty sure they were good. The cream went every where - an elderly gent I didn't know wiped his hand on my Gerard Darel silk shirt  (that's what I wore) in a friendly fashion and then explained that it wouldn't show so much on my shirt as on his, because mine is a leopard print. Hmm. Many children, happy older people, happy councillors, happy mayor.

The Bar
Happy punch drinkers

As an aside, at home between the plastering, painting, glueing and etc. we found another hen's nest today with a new egg from a different hen. At some point I may bore you with the entire saga of hens, narcolepsy and escapology. For now, as we wait for the other Cécile to appear demanding a tasty supper snack (there really is another Cécile who does not live here and is not me). It will be mushroom soup, with the leftover chanterelle white wine cream sauce I served with pork chops in the week and pâté and stuff with Gérald the baker's bread and some fresh apricots or cherries. Simple and just as well given the amount of bubbly one consumed...

Happy children

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Mea culpa & HUGE NEWS

We’ve been in the other yellow kitchen for 6 weeks and I haven’t written one word of blog. There are many excuses I could make, none of which are interesting, unless you are imminently visiting – i.e. the bathroom is nearly ready and the guest quarters look lovely. Also KK has planted a garden – which is important food news. 50 tomato plants, salading, herbs, a new raised bed and incipient tidiness in other garden zones.

There has been excellent food, naturally. The lovely daughter was already here when we arrived and had been subsisting entirely on canned and bottled products from the cellar. Lucky her. Our first guests arrived four days after we did. The Blacksmith gave us one of his late geese to eat on the 8th of May (VE day) after much post ceremony drinking and eating of the baker’s snacks and petits fours. The Blacksmith’s lady hereinafter known as the Artist, gave us an enormous rabbit which I cooked, as usual in white wine and mustard. More about rabbit some other time – rabbit will feature much in our diet, since the Artist has a gift for rodent rearing. Our nice guests also took us to Chez Poirier (see previous eulogies) where a suitably delicious and gargantuan meal was eaten after perusing the Monday market in Chalais.  There are also photos of food somewhere in a camera which will form part of a blog at some point. 

The main point of this meandering is to tell the world that the bar restaurant in Petit Bersac is opening on Monday. 

I can’t tell you how excited we are! If you thought we were excited about the bakery … well...

Officially, the restaurant opens on Monday 18th June 2012 at noon and I proudly reserved the first table. Yes! But tomorrow – Friday 15th at 5pm the village is invited to aperitifs and nibbles to meet the restaurant ladies. There will be photos, there will be excitement, there has been gossip. Two women with a small red-headed and adorable child; the mother of the chef was an accountant and now looks after the baby. Isabelle (call me Isa, I’m shy and I love food) the chef, and Aurélie (I manage stuff) who will do everything else except build stuff and hew wood – Isa does that. Likeable, competent, enthusiastic, brave and, above all here, in our newly renovated bar, grocery, restaurant. We are excited, proud, and we wish them all the very, very best. Please be successful and please stay. 

Le Vin Doux, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from dawn to late for coffee and drinks and buying a bag of pasta. Local food, produced by local people, fresh – there is no freezer – modern and respectful of tradition. 

And I’ll be there on Saturday too – the council is having first dinner there and significant others are invited (KK is quietly pleased). So there will be news – I know what the menu is because I chose it and I’m not telling, but I'm quietly confident.

So, three days in a row - what shall I wear??!!!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Point Pinos Grill

Point Pinos Grill, Pacific Grove, California: it was an excellent meal. But I forgot my photographic device and took some very mediocre pics with my cell phone and I have no idea how to put them on here. So, not many pics but excellent food and a very pleasant ambiance. 

We went for several reasons: BGK has been here several times for lunch and breakfast; the restaurant is trying to establish a dinner clientèle amid some grumblings from local Pacific Grove residents about possible noise and nuisances. I can only speak for ourselves but we were neither noisy nor a nuisance...I think. The restaurant is housed in the golf club house with a day-time view of golf course and sea. It's a nice space in the evening too - lots of window and stone with restrained furnishings and proper napery, cutlery and glassware. The wait staff were pleasant and discreet, knowledgeable and helpful. One of the two chefs, Dory Ford was chef at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I am told - cooking for people rather than the finny ones I imagine. The little freshly baked biscuits were too good - they demanded to be eaten. The menu is interesting: from amongst the many appetizers we chose to share the Dungeness Crab and Foraged Mushroom Strudel which provided a more than decently sized fully-flavoured bite for each of us. Delicious. We drank a good wine from Navarre in Northern Spain. 

BGK chose to eat Foie Gras with Toasted Brioche for her meal and we chose not to taste it. Her report is that it was very good but not as good we do it - but, you know, that's a hard act to follow. The rest of us decided to split three main courses and share equitably - always a gamble! AK chose Maple Bourbon Pork Belly which came with a bread pudding leek waffle - what a good invention - and pickled chanterelles. The pork was glossy and slow cooked, the waffle surprising and very good in flavour and texture. 

KK opted for Dijon Crusted Arctic Char with braised endive, a triangular spinach risotto cake (a big improvement on risotto balls) and a pomegranate gastrique. I'm a bit iffy about all this gastrique business (see but it was tartly delicious with the tasty, crispy skin of the fish. I had never eaten char and I recommend it, firm-fleshed and slightly pink, it stood up well to being the last of the three dishes I ate and thus slightly cooler than one might prefer. 

I chose the dish pictured below - a simply fabulous Rabbit Fricassee with baby potatoes in red, white and blue, carrot dumplings (not my favourite), cubed, roasted salsify (excellent) and a tasty but misplaced Quince Mostarda (mostarda is defined by Wiki as an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavoured syrup) - for me, the mostarda was too emphatic and sweet but would have been delicious with the Foie Gras, and the carrot dumpling was heavy and tasted a little of baking powder. The rabbit though, was one of the best rabbit dishes I had ever eaten (and I do a very good Rabbit in Mustard, White Wine and Crème Fraîche - yes I do) was perfectly cooked and tender in white wine beurre blanc sauce. We asked for a spoon.

Tasty rabbit 
We ate no dessert but I want to go back for breakfast and lunch but probably not this visit unless I can swing lunch tomorrow...When you read the menu, you think, as often one does - oh, OK, hmmm - really? And then you see and taste the food - how's this for Heuvos rancheros?

I urge you to go on their Facebook page, ogle the photos and dribble a little...

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mi Pueblo & Meyer Lemons

Lunch time and a visit to Mi Pueblo Food Centre in Seaside, a stone’s throw from KK’s parental residence.  We have been before and KK has been dreaming of going back for lunch.  It is a lovely store, bright, clean, cheerful and full of excellent things to eat and pleasant, smiling, bilingual people.  Which is great for me, since I speak no Spanish.

Lunch called – it fairly bellowed. We passed the case full of pork – pork scratchings, deep fried slices of belly pork, carnitas (I love carnitas), pigs ears, snout and cheek. Soups, salsas, beans, tamales, horchata, jamaica, mango drink, burritos, tacos, sopes…and we ate: deep fried pork belly, a tamale, BGK had a sope with bean, carnitas, lettuce, crema and queso fresco – lovely; KK & I shared tacos de carnitas served with a clear hot red salsa & lengua with a green salsa. 
Tacos - the tongue ones are at the back

The red salsa fairly blows your head off.  We drank jamaica made with hibiscus which reminds me of living in Africa where we made it in bottles set in the sun and BGK had horchata. The very cute child next to us threw her horchata all over the table and floor which didn’t seem to faze anyone.  Then we shopped.  We bought limes because they are so much cheaper in Mexican stores, and then I smelt the guavas, only some were pink but all were fragrant, so we bought some of those, and avocados and beautiful, plump ginger root (see below). 
                         very, very hairy chayote

cones of raw sugar, tamarind, cinnamon bark & hibiscus flowers for tea

Veg & pinatas

 We remembered the walnut yogurt from the summer - oh, this yogurt is a poem of a yogurt and due to indiscriminate experimentation we have discovered that it is excellent as frozen dessert.  
Yogurts: walnut, mango, strawberry, coffee; and crema 

This is definitely something to try making in France with our own walnuts and local honey.  We looked at the meat which is all cut very thin except for all the odd bits of offal which are in chunks.  I find it fascinating to see such a great meat counter, so many different cuts and types of meat that are unavailable in “main-stream” markets.  Chicken feet packaged with hearts and livers – presumably for soup.  Oh and look at the fish!  

Tequila galore, new kinds of Mexican chocolate – in powder form and happy smiling people.  

Then we went to megaland – what a contrast! After much unneeded sampling of products we weren't going to buy (we bought one, so we fail), at the check out a woman behind us had an enormous package of beautiful Meyer lemons, so I ran to the back of the store – it was a long way (my exercise for the day) but my feet were like wings in a good cause and I arrived back at the check out in the nick of time bearing fragrant, golden fruits.  I expect that some of you are wondering why the fuss about Meyer lemons? The Meyer lemon is a roundish, thin, smooth-skinned and very fragrant, less acidic lemon.  It's not very large but it is very yellow. According to Wiki, Citrus × meyeri is perhaps a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange and was introduced to the US in 1908 by Meyer an agricultural explorer and employee of the USDA. I think lemon curd would be delicious made with this. Of course, lemon curd is almost always delicious, since it is mostly made of butter.

Two plans so far: make ice cream using the method I used for Thanksgiving Pumpkin ice cream (more later) and candied Meyer lemon peel for Florentines (in honour of RI who is not here to eat them but spoke eulogistically of the ones I made for Thanksgiving in a  Proustian mode, evoking bygone days in Oxford).  

Also, I have to report that Meyer lemon juice makes a very good cocktail when combined with ginger syrup, ice and gin – the Kelly Kick we are calling it – or, as this evening – combined with other left over citrus lurking around – a tangerine, half a pink grapefruit – truly delightful.  

Dinner was simple: fresh crab. And white wine.