Monthly Archives: May 2010

Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes)

Stuffed Tomatoes of Yumness

Rice usually bores me. I know it’s supposed to accentuate whatever saucy dish it’s being served with (stir fry, dal, whatever), but to me rice is a thief, sopping up and diluting the delicious spices in the main event. But cook the rice in wine, add plenty of sauteed veggies and herbs, then stuff it in a tomato and suddenly rice BECOMES the main event in a dish that is all at once healthy, special and comforting.

Stuffed tomatoes (tomates farcies in French) are a traditional French side dish typically served in the summer when tomatoes are in season. Most recipes use ground beef as the stuffing, but at Chateau Ventenac, we used camargue red rice cooked in wine and stock mixed with a heap of sauteed onion, leek, red pepper, garlic and plenty of fresh herbs. The tomatoes are then stuffed, topped with cheese, and baked for until the tomatoes are sizzling in their own sweet juices and just starting to blacken around the edges.

Filling for stuffed tomatoes
David, Joanna and Irene stuff tomatoes
Narbonne Market
Stuffed tomatoes (with hats!)

This was one of my favourite meals of the course, and the recipe I most looked forward to bringing home with me to Chicago. And as I discovered last week, this recipe is VERY adaptable to whatever types of rice and veggies you have on hand.

Lacking both leek and red pepper, I used onion, carrots, peas, corn, chopped kale and dried italian herbs from Mr. Greenjeans. I also used a mix of brown jasmine and wild rice. Fortunately, we did have white wine around – you could do without, but the white wine gives the rice a nice sweet richness that really takes the dish to a whole new level. Besides, it wouldn’t be very French without it!

I left the cheese off mine for a vegan tomates farcies experience, but everyone else got a bit of parmesan on theirs. Both versions turned out a treat. The carrots and kale added the perfect texture to the soft rice. Mom made some green beans with lemon and sesame seeds and I poached some eggs to go on all the extra rice filling that didn’t fit in the tomatoes. And couple of raw avocado slices on the side didn’t hurt a bit. The only problem with these tomatoes is that they’re a butter to get out of the pan, so keep a good spatula handy and try to be patient, but if not, don’t worry – the tomato will come to pieces on your plate in no time.

Stuffed Tomatoes of Yumness

Here is the recipe as given from Rachel Demuth. I know I know, I have French Fever, and the only prescription is tamates farcies. Next time, I promise something completely different from somewhere completely OTHER than the south of France. Something crunchy. Something spicy. Something all about the vegetables and something quintessentially CHICAGO.

Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes)

These are vegan without the cheese.

  • 200g Camargue red rice (or whatever red rice you have on hand)
  • 250ml white wine
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • A few sprigs of bay, rosemary, thyme and oregano (or a pinch each of dried)
  • 6 ripe but firm large tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 350g finely chopped vegetables (red pepper, mushrooms, leek, carrot, kale, whatever you have around)
  • 4 tbsps olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsps chopped fresh basil
  • handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 100g Parmesan, or similar cheese, grated (optional)
  • salt & pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
  2. Cook the rice in a medium saucepan with the vegetable stock, the glass of wine and herbs. Stir occasionally and simmer until just cooked through, which takes about 15 minutes for red rice, make sure the rice isn’t over cooked as it is cooked again inside the tomatoes. Drain. Set the rice aside.
  3. Cut a thick slice off the top of each tomato; leaving on the stalk if you can and reserve the tomato tops. Cut and scoop the seeds, pulp, and juice from each tomato into a small saucepan. Simmer the tomato pulp for 15 minutes and then strain through a sieve, reserving the pulp and discarding the seeds.
  4. Oil the bottom of a baking dish, big enough to fit the tomatoes snugly, with 2 tbsps of the olive oil. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the prepared dish.
  5. To make the filling. In a frying pan fry the onion gently in the remainder of the olive oil, until soft and starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a minute before adding the vegetables with a little salt and pepper. Gently fry for five minutes and then add the strained tomato pup. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the parsley, some of the cheese and rice (add as much so that the rice to veggie ratio is just as you like – you might have some rice leftover). Combine well. Add the tomato juice to achieve a moist filling. Taste and season well.
  6. Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Sprinkle leftover stuffing on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle entire dish with olive oil and the remaining cheese. Place the reserved tomato slices on top the tomatoes. Bake until the rice is heated through, about 20 minutes.
Stuffed Tomatoes of Yumness

Quick Garden Update

While I’m in Chicago, Tim is kindly taking care of my hodgepodge gardening effort. And looking at the pictures, it really does feel like a hodge podge.

There’s the indoor cherry tomato plant that has pretty much gone crazy. It’s taken over the wall and even has tomatoes already. Proof that it’s it’s pretty much effortless to grow tomatoes indoors in a container:

Tomato plants gone wild

Its friend, the yellow sungold tomatoes, is less epic, but also impressive (and look, you can see our clay oven in the background!):

Tomato plants gone wild

I’ve got a bunch of seedlings that are still not ready to go be planted out yet. I’ve been hardening them off, though, and they’re now spending most of their time outdoors. Looking at it this way, my garden looks pretty pruny – grow plants, grow!

Modest garden

Outside, I wanted to put my polytunnel into action, so I put a couple experimental jalapenos and red romano peppers out there. According to Tim, they’re still alive!

Fresh implants to the polytunnel

I also have some rocket going in a container, but I’m not thrilled with their progress. Yes, lots of green buds, but it looks like a lot of green nasty stuff on the soil, too. What’s up with that?

Rocket to be

The pumpkin and potatoes are much happier, though. Here they are in their respective pots:

Pumpkin and potatoes

Unfortunately, while tending to my plants, I noticed that the tomatoes and seedlings living indoors are being attacked by aphids. Any suggestions for getting rid of them?

Aphids - boo

Here in Chicago, I’ll be helping my mom set up her raised beds. I’m looking forward to it – she’s been gardening for years, and has even done some time working on her friend Mr. Greenjeans‘ organic farm in Ohio. I’m hoping to learn some tips and tricks to take back with me to my humble garden in the UK. Stay tuned!

Viajante: a unique dining experience in London

Definitely didn't need more to drinkWine vs. beer

Last Friday, Tim and I headed to London for a long belated “Christmas party” hosted by Tim’s company, Well Informed Limited. Bear in mind, Tim’s company has only two full time employees – Tim and his partner – so this party / double date was destined to be a fairly intimate affair. All I knew was that the four of us were going somewhere nice for dinner (“jeans OK”). Little did I know that when we rocked up to Viajante in Bethnal Green that evening, that I was about to have one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life.

The bar at ViajanteViajante is in the old town hall on Bethnal Green, an area better known for its grit than its granache. On the walk to the restaurant, the street seemed to be teaming with wrestling fanatics – apparently a “fight” or some sort was about to take place at a nearby arena. The mood was definitely rough around the edges, which made Viajante seem all the more grand in comparison. I believe my first words upon entering where: “whoa”. Everything seemed to gleam, from the floor to the chandelier in the chic bar, where we had a few tasty cocktails before sitting down for dinner.

The restaurant itself was a pleasant surprise with a clean, modern design, very comfortable chairs and an open plan kitchen-dining area so foodies like me can oggle at the chefs as they prepare minuscule portions of incredibly delicious food. Speaking of chefs, the head chef at Viajante is Nuno Mendes, who the Guardian calls “one of the hottest young chefs around.” In his own words:

I have devoted the last two years to Viajante, to planning and experimenting with each dish, each menu. I am passionate about the food I cook, from the ingredients we source to ensuring that every meal is indulgent but healthy – and I hope that passion can be felt the moment you enter Viajante.

If I didn’t feel the passion in the cocktail bar, I was about to get a taste as we moved on to our meal. Now, I don’t eat out very often – one of the down sides to living in a barn in the middle of no where – and when I do, it’s usually somewhere fairly casual, and definitely no more than three courses. So when I learned that we were going for the 12 course tasting menu (WITH wine pairings), I was almost scared.

The waiter said that it would take about 4 hours to do the tasting and I could barely comprehend this reality. As it turns out, it’s very easy to eat for four hours straight, especially when the company is grand, the portions are tiny, and there’s plenty of wine to wash it all down with. Plus, the staff (including Nuno himself) spent a good deal of time explaining the inspiration for each dish and why each wine was chosen to go with it.

I realised early on in the evening that my camera was out of battery – how gutting! But I made do with Tim’s compact camera and hand-written notes (pen and paper courtesy of Viajante). Here’s the low-down on the 12-course food orgy:


Crostini de romesco and gordal olives, almonds and Jerez
Smokey aubergine with soy milk
A cracker sandwidth thing
Bread with brown butter

Canapes: Smokey Aubergine with soy milkCanapes: Delicious bread with brown butter
Canapes: Delicious bread with brown butterCanapes: Cracker sandwiches two ways

Course 1: Cucumber tartar with pickled radishes and samphire

(Meat option: squid tartare and pickled radishes, samphire and frozen squid ink jus)

Wine pairing: Standt Krems, ‘Looserterasen’ Gruner Veltliner 2009, Austria

Course 1: Cucumber tartar with pickled radishes and samphire

I enjoyed the strong flavor of dill in this. “Very polish,” said I. And look at those cute little mushrooms. Believe it or not, this is what the dish looked like after just one bite… this was not going to be a filling meal!

Course 2: “Spring Garden”

Wine pairing: Adega de Monaco Vinho Verde 2009, Portugal

Course 2:

Cauliflower “couscous” with leeks and parsnip, plus some kind of pesto “soup” and some other kind of “foam”. A radish. Some tiny broccoli. Very tasty. Served with a 2008 Blanc de Pas (?) from Catelonia.

Course 3: Pickled cauliflower with cep custard, cucumber hearts and “beach herbs”

(Meat option: Set crab milk with cauliflower, cucumber hearts and beach herbs.)

Wine pairing: Quercus Pinot Grillio, 2008 Slovenia

Beer courseCourse 3: Pickled cauliflower with cep custard, cucumber hearts and

The meaties had a crab custard instead of cep. I think I won. Served with Quercus Pino Grillio, 2008, Slovenia.

Course 4: Something with beetroot and purees

(Meat option: Razor clam, smoked yogurt, Rosemary Dashi. Wine not beer.)

Wine pairing: Gran cru beer

Course 4: Something with beetroot and pureesHenry between coursesErwan and the start of my wine collection

I was too distracted by the pairing of beer with this course that I forgot to write down what it was… or what the beer was for that matter.

Course 5: Parsnip and toasted hazelnuts with warm egg yolk sauce

(Meat option: braised octopus with Pimenton potatoes, chorizo and eggs)

Wine pairing: A&P de Villaine Bourgogne Aligate 2007, France.

Course 5: Parsnip and toasted hazelnuts with warm egg yolk sauce

My favorite course so far. Very crunchy. Meat eaters had braised octopus with Pimenton potatoes, chorizo and eggs. Served with something Teruzzi & Puthod from Tuscany… a white sangiovese. Menu says A&P de Villaine Bourgogne Aligate 2007, France. Perhaps they are one in the same.

Course 6: Olive soup with Greek Yogurt, ginger and pistachios crumbs

Wine pairing: Felton Road Vin Gris 2006, NZ
Course 6: Olive soup with Greek Yogurt, ginger and pistachios crumbs

I wrote “yogurt foam” and “pistachio lime”. A lot going on here. “Quite a challenging dish,” says Henry. Served with Felton Road Vin Gris 2006, NZ (Henry’s island). Coincided with a toast to Erwan and his Team of 5.

Course 7: Roasted celeriac, tapioca and S. Jorge Cheese

Wine pairing: Domanie Trapet “Beblenheim’ Gewurztraminer 2006, France. Note: we were still on white wine at this point.

Course 7: Roasted celeriac, tapioca and S. Jorge Cheese

Plus some sort of mushroom stock. The cheese was awesome. The tapioca was interesting – mostly for the texture. Now THIS was my favorite dish so far.

Course 8: Pureed brioche, gnocchi, yeast and poached egg

(Meat option: Skate wing Brioche, yeast and cauliflower)

Wine pairing: Duvel Leroy, 1999 Blanc de Chardonnay

Course 8: Pureed brioche, gnocchi, yeast and poached egg

Meat eaters had skate wing Brioche, yeast and cauliflower. Another standout dish. Pureed brioche – “sup w/ dat?” Whatever was “sup” with it, I liked. Chef presented the meal to explain that he invented this dish to go with Champagne (because of the yeast).

Course 9: Savoy cabbage emulsion with carrots and fried capers

(Meat option: Pigs neck and prawn, savoy cabbage and fried capers)

Wine pairing: something Hungarian and red

Course 9: Savoy cabbage emulsion with carrots and fried capers

Who ever thought that pureed savoy cabbage would actually be good? Meat eaters had Pigs neck and prawn with their savoy cabbage. Served with a Hungarian red wine, some kind of mix of cabernet franc, merlot and pinot noir? (Notes are getting hazy at this point, and menu claims Calero ‘Mount Haman’ Pinot Noir 2006 USA which I think is incorrect!)

Course 10: Roasted bread with chunky miso

(Meat option: Aged sirloin of beef and chunky miso, ramson onions and burnt fennel)

Wine pairing: something red and Portugese

Course 10: Roasted bread with chunky misoCourse 10 (meat option): Aged sirloin of beef and chunky miso, ramson onions and burnt fennel

And some carrot for fun! Here we start with the red wine. Served with a Portugese tinto, “more about the flavor than aromatics body and texture”.

Palette Cleanser: Lemon and Thai basil sorbet

Palette Cleanser: Lemon and Thai basil sorbet

With melon I think. Wow, this was “extradorinary”, “amazing”, “h3est flavor ice cream we ever had”, “damn”.

Course 11: Carrots mousse, sweet and pickled, buttermilk and granite

Wine pairing: Icded cider from Quebec

Course 11: Carrots mousse, sweet and pickled, buttermilk and graniteCan you tell your wine from your iced cider?Iced cider

Loved the cinnamon in this dish. Reminded me of a churro. A “frozen surprise” carrot canneloni. Served with the Canadian iced cider.

Course 12: Dark chocolate and Water

Wine pairing: I can’t read my scribble

Course 12: Dark chocolate and Water

The least memorable dish of the evening. I think there was supposed to be rosemary in there somewhere. It tasted like boring ol’ chocolate ice cream to me.

Endings: Tea and Petit Fours

Surprisingly full after all those little dishes.Tea course.  Much needed.

And a wicked hangover the next day!

Congrats to Jo from The Good Life!

72818987-6B7E-4088-A650-77F05760686B.jpg I’m a little tardy in announcing the winner of last Friday’s Green Season’s giveaway – I’ve been a little tangled up in ash and babushka’s. My Monday flight to Chicago was delayed due to the infamous ash cloud, and I ended up spending the day flying to Warsaw, then Chicago, on LOT Polish airlines, quite possibly the worst airline I’ve ever flown on. But enough complaining – I’m here aren’t I? So on to more important matters:

The random number generator was favouring Yorkshire last Friday and picked Leeds-based blogger Jo of The Good Life as our winner. I have to give a huge thanks to Jo for entering the contest, because without it I wouldn’t have found her wonderful blog about her new allotment. Being new to gardening, I’ve found her blog full of inspiration and kindred tidings. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one running out of space for her seedlings and growing potatoes in a pot.

So check out Jo’s blog and if you didn’t win but still want to enjoy some goodness from Green Seasons, check out this recipe for Celeriac and Horseradish burgers, or head over to Rachel Demuth’s website for a few more sample recipes from the book.

Friday Treat: Brioche and Croissants

Croissants and Brioche
I’m not usually one for butter and sweets, but on Fridays I like to indulge. Usually my Friday treat comes from a bottle, but since it’s barely past noon, I figure it’s probably too early for St. Peter’s Organic Ale. On the other hand, it’s never too early for bread.
My bread baking attempts took on new levels of butter last week as I baked my first ever batch of croissants and brioche with the much-needed assistance of Helen Lawrence, Rachel Demuth’s partner in pastry at Chateau Ventenac. Admittedly, my contribution was sporadic at best, but I did discover that there’s something special about baking pastry versus bread. And a lot of that speciality has to do with butter.
Butter and fresh herbs - hallmarks of French cuisine!
Take brioche, for instance. You start with what seems like regular bread dough, then add an obscene amount of butter. Here, cold hands are an asset, and I admit that I blushed a little when Rachel told me I had “pastry making hands” because of my icy fingers. The trick is to incorporate the butter before it can melt, which is a bit daunting. But the process is delightful, and I parted the dough with silky soft hands that smelled good enough to spread on toast.
Shaping the brioche
Croissants are a different process entirely. Not only do you get to roll out dough, but you even get to roll out butter. Rolling and folding: that’s a croissant in a nutshell. And you can use the same dough to make pan au chocolate.
Of course, there’s a reason why french grocery stores sell pre-mixed brioche and croissant dough (reminiscent of those Pillsbury Crescents you can buy in a cardboard tube): croissants and brioche are a labor of love. They involve lots of waiting, resting, mixing, rolling and shaping. But why bake if you don’t love the process?
For a few simpler, but equally delicious recipes, don’t forget to comment on this post for a chance to win Rachel Demuth’s Green Seasons cookbook. Today (Friday) is the last day to enter!


Makes 15 individual brioche

1 heaped tsp easy blend instant yeast
50g caster sugar
65ml warm water
4 eggs, beaten
450g strong white flour
pinch of salt

225g soft unsalted butter
melted butter to brush the brioche tins
Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten


You will need brioche moulds.

In a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour and salt, add the easy blend instant yeast and mix together then add the sugar, warm water and beaten eggs and mix to a stiff dough by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook.
When the dough is smooth and silky, add the soft butter in small pieces and beat in. only add the next pieces of butter when the previous pieces have been absorbed, (if you are too hasty the dough will turn oily)
The dough is ready when it looks glossy and comes away from the edges of the bowl.

Place it in an oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and rest it overnight in the fridge.

Next day, butter your brioche moulds really well.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Its important to keep the dough cool, otherwise the butter will start to melt and the dough will become sticky.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and gently kneed the dough. Roll the dough into a sausage and divide up into 50g pieces, using scales to be precise.

Rachel shows us how to shape the briocheRachel shows us how to shape the briocheRachel shows us how to shape the brioche

Roll each piece into a teardrop shape. Put the big end into the buttered brioche mould and push the ‘drop’ or hat into the centre of the brioche. With a chopstick dipped in flour, push the chopstick through the top of the brioche almost to the bottom, this may sound strange, but it keeps the hat on.

Shaping the brioche

Place the brioche in a warm place and let them rise for about 1-2 hours or until double in size. This will take time, as the dough has to warm up from cold, before it starts to rise.
While they are rising, preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.

Gently brush the top of each brioche with egg wash.
Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25minutes until golden.
Eat warm with home-made jam.

Croissants and Brioche

Croissant (and pain au chocolat)

125ml milk
140ml warm water
50g castor sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fast action yeast
500g strong white flour
250g unsalted butter
egg wash = 1 egg beaten with a pinch a salt 1 hour before use.


Make a sponge: in a bowl whisk together the yeast, 100g of the flour and the warm water. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm place. Put the remaining flour, milk, salt, sugar in a bowl and add the sponge. Beat together with a dough hook until soft and sticky and coming away from the sides of the bowl. Cling film and leave to rise slowly overnight.

Take the dough out of the fridge, dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough into a large even square, 1 cm thick.

Take the butter out of the fridge (must be cold) and put into a food bag. Bash gently and roll with a rolling pin to flatten the butter into a thin square 2/3 the size of the dough. Peel off the plastic and place the butter into the middle of the dough.

Fold over the edges of the dough to meet over the butter enclosing it in a parcel like fashion.

Roll the dough into a long rectangle, rolling away from you to a long strip of 1 cm thickness. Fold one end in by 1/4 then the other end, fold over again so the edges meet then fold the ends together like closing up a book. Turn the dough 1/4 turn and roll out to a long strip. Fold one end by 1/3 then fold the other end over. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill for 30 minutes.

Helen shows us how to roll croissant doughHelen shows us how to roll croissant dough
Helen shows us how to roll croissant doughHelen shows us how to roll croissant dough

Take the dough out of the fridge. This time roll it out length-wise and width-wise to make a wider rectangle, 1/2 cm thick. Trim the edges and cut the pastry in half down the middle. Cut each strip into 7 triangles, making 14 small croissant in total.* Cut a small slit in the bottom side pull the corners away from each other and roll them up the length of the triangle.

Croissants to be

Leave to rise slowly (not in a hot place) for 2-3 hours until doubled in size. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes before cooking then brush lightly with egg wash (don’t brush the edges with butter as this will impede the rising) and put into a hot oven at 200C for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 175C for 10 minutes or until the croissant are golden.


*Pain au chocolat – Cut the pastry into 14 small rectangles. Place 2 lines of dark chocolate across them and roll up. Use 100g melted dark chocolate firmed up in the fridge and moulded into strips for 14 pain au chocolat

Chocolate drizzles for pan au chocolat

DIY Polytunnel

DIY Polytunnel

One of the reasons I moved from London to the country is so that I could have a proper garden. This is my first garden EVER so I’m trying to keep it small and manageable. My initial plan was to have only a few plants – tomatoes, peppers and potatoes – all planted in containers. But the more I sprout, plant, dig and grow, the more ambitious I get.

A couple weeks ago I put in a raised bed, and I now have loads of seedlings on the go, ready to be planted out: tomatoes, jalapenos, serranos, tomatillos, pumpkin, and cucumber. Unfortunately, aside from the pumpkin, I’ve chosen about the least UK-appropriate vegetables for my garden. And though they might be ready for the raised bed, they are not ready for the morning frosts that we’re STILL getting in Wiltshire.

So I decided to build a mini polytunnel over my raised bed out of a few simple, and very cheap, materials:

  • 25mm MDPE water piping (salvaged from a construction site)
  • polythene sheeting (a few quid from a garden centre)
  • bamboo (already had this around)
  • bricks (leftovers from the clay oven)

I got my inspiration from around the web, particularly
The Door Garden and Alan’s polytunnel.

This was soooo easy. I simply cut the tube to length, cut 6 stakes out of the bamboo and stabbed them in the ground, fit the tubes over the bamboo, covered it with polythene, and used the bricks to secure the sheeting.

I’m not sure how well the brick thing will withstand the wind, and I may need to come up with a more secure way to fasten the sheet, but so far I’m pretty pleased. I’ll put a few plants out there this weekend and see how they survive.

DIY Polytunnel

The real trick will be to get the garden in a state so that it’s easy to take care of while I’m in the States for three weeks ( I’m leaving this Monday and there’s so much to do!). Tim’s taking care of things while I’m away and he’s not nearly as obsessed with this gardening stuff as I am.

So if anyone has any suggestions on prepping a garden for a babysitter, I’m all ears. And any other tips on polytunnels, cloches, tomatoes, peppers, UK gardening, or anything else that this inexperienced gardening noob should know would also be appreciated. =)

Speaking of plants that are climate-appropriate, the native wildflowers that grow here on Clattinger Farm continue to blow my mind. I know the fritillaries were supposed to be “the business”, but these purple orchids are my favorites so far. Their color is like a dream:

Purple orchids on Clattinger Farm
Purple orchids on Clattinger Farm

Two simple salads with sunflower seeds

Courgette and Carrot Salad
Quinoa salad

I may be back in England, but the fruits of France continue, or should I say the seeds? One of the things I learned from Rachel Demuth last week at Chateau Ventenac is that toasted seeds can turn just about any vegetable, grain, lentil or bean into a delicious salad with complex flavour and irresistible crunch.

Two such salads are pictured above: one made with grated courgettes and carrots, the other with quinoa, both with heaps of fresh herbs and toasted seeds (read on for the recipes). But I think you could take just about any mix of veggies, grains, beans or lentils and make them interesting just by adding a few toasted sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

I tried this myself last night with spring onion, green pepper, cucumber, carrot, tomato, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped oregano, parsley and wild garlic, and a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and grainy mustard. I was pretty pleased!

Demuthian salad with black bean and pumpkin enchiladas

In case you’re wondering, that charred lump next to the salad is a black bean and pumpkin enchilada with mole sauce. It was tastier than it looks, I swear!

Speaking of tasty, here are those recipes I promised. Enjoy! And don’t forget, I’m giving away a copy of Rachel Demuth’s Green Seasons Cookbook this week. Visit this post and leave a comment to enter a chance to win.

Herby Quinoa Tabouleh

Courtesy of Rachel Demuth and her cooking course at Chateau Ventenac. Recipe note from Rachel: “Quinoa, pronounced ‘keenwa’ is a tiny golden Amaranth seed from South America. It has a higher protein content than rice and is gluten-free. It cooks to beautiful fluffy spheres that keep their texture.”


1 tbsp olive oil
250g quinoa
500ml vegetable stock
1 lemon, zest and juice
pinch of salt
30g cashews, roasted
30g walnuts, roasted
20g pumpkin seeds, roasted
20g sunflower seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
4 tbsps fresh flat parsley, roughly chopped
4 tbsp fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly until the water runs clear. Cook the quinoa in the stock, lemon juice and zest plus a pinch of salt. Simmer covered for about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat, leaving the lid on, leave to sit for 10 minutes until the quinoa grain has burst. Then fluff up the quinoa with a fork.
  2. Roast the cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds for 8-10 minutes until golden. Add the sesame seeds for the final few minutes of roasting.
  3. Mix the seeds and nuts with the quinoa, cayenne, paprika, mint and parsley.
  4. Check for seasoning, add salt, pepper, and more lemon if needed.

Grated Courgette Salad

Courtesy of Rachel Demuth and her cooking course at Chateau Ventenac.


1 large carrots (125g), peeled and grated
3 large courgettes (350g), grated
handful of fresh flat parsley or coriander, chopped
4 tbsps sunflower seeds, toasted
3 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt & freshly ground black pepper


  1. Make the dressing by mixing the olive oil with the lemon juice and mustard.
  2. Toss the dressing with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Season to taste.

Celeriac and Horseradish Burgers

Celeriac and horseradish burger

This week, I’m giving away a copy of Rachel Demuth’s latest vegetarian cookbook, Green Seasons. I was attending Rachel’s French cooking course at Chateau Ventenac last week, where I was turned on to the promise of celeriac, a knobbly-shaped root vegetable with flavours of celery, parsley and nuts.

In one of our lessons, we made a vegan version of the classic Celeriac Remoulade, a simple grated salad of celeriac and mayonnaise (homemade vegan mayo in our case). Since returning from France, I’ve been jonesing for more celeriac, so decided to give the celeriac and horseradish burgers from Green Seasons a try (cheers to mangocheeks for the inspiration).

Folks, these veggie burgers are, at last, not mush burgers. Furthermore, they’re delicious and very simple with dominant flavors of horseradish and spring onion. They were great on a bun, but could just as easily be eaten on their own with a bit of mustard and chutney on the side. I think they’d be phenomenal with sauerkraut, or eaten like a potato pancake with sour cream and applesauce.

Here’s the recipe, and if you like this then you’ll definitely like the Green Seasons cookbook, so pop on over to this post and add a comment to enter a chance to win a copy!

Celeriac and Horseradish Burgers

Adapted from Rachel Demuths Green Seasons cookbook. Serves 4-6.


  • 1 celeriac weighing 400g – 500g, peeled and grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 400g tin black eye beans, drained and mashed
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 Tbsp horseradish sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sunflower oil for frying


  1. Gently sauté the celeriac and garlic in the sunflower oil until softened.
  2. In a large bowl combine the celeriac mix with the mashed black eye beans, spring onion, breadcrumbs, parsley and horseradish sauce. Season well.
  3. Shape into 4 -6 burgers and place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up before frying.
  4. Fry on both sides in a little sunflower oil until golden.
  5. Serve in a bun with crispy green leave, and red onion.

Friday Freebie a la Francois


I’ve learned so much this week at Chateau Ventenac. We all have. And it all seemed to come together over last night’s dinner prep. What was supposed to be a leisurely afternoon of cooking turned into a wonderfully mad explosion of food-inspired energy.

A morning at Narbonne’s covered market resulted in a sudden influx of food, some familiar (peppers, asparagus, peas), others not so much (celeriac, turnip, kumquats). Our creative juices went on overdrive and from 2 to 8pm we cooked nonstop: podding peas, grating veggies, making paella, and a whole lot of chopping. When the boulangerie was closed, I typically volunteered to make Fougasse (it’s not only easy, but it’s a very quick bread to make when there’s only an hour or two to spare before dinner).

In the end, the dinner menu was epic: two types of paella, zucchini with bechemel sauce, celeriac slaw, turnip salad, cornbread, cucumber yogurt dip, aubergine “fondue”, strawberries, stuffed kumquats, cheese and of course, the Fougasse. It was fantastic. The beauty of these multi-day cooking courses is that you have a few days to warm up, and by the end, everyone’s has the confidence to take on their own creations and share it with the rest of the group.

Crazy in the kitchen

A phenomenal evening, topped off with lots of wine and conversation, mostly about food, including some of our favourite chefs and cookbooks. David Liebowitz, Mark Bittman, Heidi Swanson, and Clotilde Dusoulier were mentioned, to name a few. And I thought – what better time to giveaway a cookbook inspired by this week’s generous author, Rachel Demuth?

Today I’m giving away Rachel Demuth‘s latest book, Green Seasons, filled with fabulous recipes for Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring.

To win the cookbook, all you have to do is leave a comment and I’ll pick a winner at random on Friday, May 14th.

For a preview of what you’ll find, check out some of these recipes on Rachel’s website, or pop on over to mangocheeks’ blog and check out her recent go at Celeriac and Horseradish burgers, inspired by the same book.

Lunching Like the French Do

Lunch at Chateau Ventenac

I know that most people don’t think about food as much as I do, so this week it’s been a real treat being surrounded by some fellow food-obsessed vegetarians who also think there’s nothing better than to cook, eat and think about food all day long. Somehow, today’s lunch really summed up the vibe. Nothing complicated. Just simple, fresh food, lots of salad, bread, cheese, great conversation, and of course, a bit of wine.

According to Helen, one of the cooking tutors, this was in the true spirit of French dining: simple, quick, fresh and leisurely. Here are a few pictures to set the scene:

Marinated artichokes
Green beans with pine nuts and fresh garlic
Lunch at Chateau Ventenac
Interesting cheese