Monday, March 25, 2013

Jane Webster

I had the great pleasure last Monday of hosting a dinner with a talk by Jane Webster.  Jane is a Melbourne mother of four children who along with her husband has bought a magnificent chateau in Normandy, totally renovated it and is now offering accommodation, cooking classes and food and wine tours. It was inspiring to hear her amazing tale of moving the family to France, which they did for two years, and now they spend six months here and six months at Chateau Bosgouet.
Which sounds magical, especially when you see the Chateau:
I might add that the exceptionally talented Jane cooks for all her guests on top of managing this very large house and her family, which I think is amazing.  She very generously gave me a copy of her most recent book...
I love that they are 'living the dream' is all possible, although it takes bravery, fortitude and determination and I'm not sure I would be game.  Read more about Jane here and plan a trip to France.  I can guarantee you will be beautifully looked after.  Thank you to my friend Jo for organising Jane's visit.  And thank you to Tim who gallantly stepped in to the role of butler and kept our wine glasses topped up throughout the night.

I decided I wanted to cook something French for Jane and our 14 guests, using some produce from my vegetable garden.  I eventually decided on a Tomato Tarte Tatin with a rocket, pear and roasted hazelnut salad.  Simple fare, but perfect for a late summer supper or lunch.
The beauty of this is that you can make it ahead of time.  The only thing is that the pastry will not be crispy if you do it ahead.  This doesn't really matter as the juices from the tomatoes soak into the pastry which gives it great flavour.  I did put them (I made two) into the Aga to slightly warm them before serving.  
The measurements for this are fairly loose as it depends entirely on the size of your pan.  Mine served 8.  You need a frying pan that can go in the oven, or I suppose you could do it in a shallow cake tin.  I also added a layer of gently softened onions and a layer of grilled zucchini because I wanted a thicker tarte and the tomatoes shrink down to nothing.

Make a batch of sour cream pastry, wrap it in baking paper and put it in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 200c.

Cut up a couple of brown onions and fry them gently in a knob of butter and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir occasionally until they are very soft.  Set aside.
In the same pan fry slices of zucchini until slightly browned.  Set aside.
Add a little more olive oil,  and add enough cherry tomatoes to cover the bottom of the pan you intend to use for the tarte.  Shake the pan gently to roll them around and partly cook them.  You don't want them to lose their shape.

Put a round of baking paper on the bottom of your tarte pan.  Tip in the tomatoes and make sure they fit snugly in one layer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread over the onions and zucchini in layers.
Roll out the pastry and drape over the top, cutting a couple of holes in the top for the steam to escape.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Allow to cool for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a plate.  Tear up some basil leaves and scatter over the top.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


It is so hot.  We have had a week of over 33c, we are just sweltering and it is now becoming tedious.  It is 38c today.  We are breaking records. Outside jobs are not getting done.  The garden is wilting.  We had a houseful of people here for the weekend and we could barely leave the house.
sorry about the dot on the photos, have tried to get it off..

I was delighted to read this post by Sarah Wilson last week about exercise.  Hooray!   There is no need to overdo it.  I happen to like exercise and my body tells me when I have to do something but I have been plagued with a persistent tennis elbow injury which is a cumulation of things, but I mostly put it down to over-doing it at boxing a year or so ago.  And gardening (secateurs).  And probably tennis.  Truth be told it doesn't seem to matter what my exercise program is my weight stays roughly the same.  So while I am trying to recover I am happy to walk with the dogs for miles and do a bit of yoga.  They are loving this pile of cypress trees...
 I have been experimenting with yoghurt marinades for chicken lately and have come up with some quite good combinations.  Yoghurt helps to tenderise the meat and seems to take on flavours very well. It definitely fits into the quick 'n easy category, although you can marinate it up to 6 hours, if you get home late, half an hour will do the trick.  
The first one I tried used pomegranate molasses, which gave the chicken a lovely burnished crust.  I have tried this with both chicken breasts and bone in chicken thighs.  I'm sure you could even do it with a whole chicken.  I also made a little dipping sauce with a bit of yoghurt and some chopped preserved lemon and sprinkled it with coriander and paprika.

I allowed 1 tablespoon of natural yoghurt to one chicken breast, or two smaller pieces.  Just multiply the recipe for larger quantities.  If using a chicken breast it is a good idea to make a few slashes in the thickest part of the breast before you marinate it.

For each tablespoon of yoghurt add 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses, the juice of half a lemon (or thereabouts.  Pomegranate molasses, while sweet, is also quite tart, so make sure you taste it), 1 clove garlic, grated and a little salt and pepper.  Toss the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for half an hour (or up to six hours).   Preheat the oven to 200c.   Line a roasting tin with foil and put the chicken pieces on a rack.
Cook for approx 30 minutes until chicken is cooked and golden.

The next one used the same method, just different flavours:
1 tblsp yoghurt as above
1 teasp Dijon mustard
1 teasp tamari (to taste)
black pepper

The last one I tried had the following:
1 tblsp yoghurt per chicken breast
1 tblsp lemon juice
1/4 teasp tumeric
1/4 teasp cumin
1 teasp grated ginger
1 teasp grated garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Praying  for a cool change.