Redcurrants – No Jelly but a Jewel of a Coulis

1-03-IMG_9713If there’s one thing the Brits understand about, it’s redcurrants. Most people, when faced with a glut of these gem-like fruits, go all to pieces. Brits are known to calmly go about making a batch of redcurrant jelly which they stash away, ready to serve with successive Sunday roasts of lamb.

For the rest of the world, not all of whom may share the Anglo-Saxon fondness for jam with meat, here’s another idea for these glistening red jewels: strip the currants off the stalks, whizz them up in a blender (no cooking!) with icing sugar, push through a strainer et voila… you have a sharp, vibrantly coloured coulis that’s just crying out to be partnered with pudding. This should be something intensely sweet – think ice cream or tiny, lint-white meringues or anything involving white chocolate – to provide a counterpoint for the tartness of the currants. And white desserts (panna cotta?) are perfect, for a good colour contrast with the ruby coulis. A sprig of mint doesn’t go amiss either.

The coulis freezes well too, so in the depths of winter, instead of hauling up another pot of jelly for your leg of lamb, pull out a pot of coulis from the freezer and serve a puddle of it beneath your favourite, sweet, white dessert.

Redcurrant coulis

Enough for about 600ml (1 pint, 2 good cups) of coulis

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600g redcurrants
200g icing sugar

Strip the currants off the stalks using a fork.  Rinse them well and shake dry in a strainer.  Put them in a blender with the icing sugar and blitz till smooth.
Tip them into a strainer held over a bowl and push them through to remove all the pips. Pour the coulis into small pots (I usually do 3-4 pots with this quantity), label and freeze.

Basel’s Best Bars

 

1-IMG_5915-001Basel blooms in summer. The somewhat staid city on the Rhine perched astride the German and French borders comes to life when the temperature rises. A rash of tables and chairs breaks out on pavements downtown, people break into smiles more readily and dress more loosely – a familiar sight is of scantily clad people wandering through the streets fresh from a Rhine swim, clutching their clothes in a waterproof bag and heading for home. There are jazz festivals, open-air concerts and the famous Basel Tattoo, often with top billing from the town’s stunning home-grown Top Secret drummers. Continue reading

Pique Nique chez le Vigneron, Whit Weekend, 2014 edition

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In many of France’s wine-growing regions, Whit Weekend (Pentecote in French, Pfingsten in German) is the moment when many of the smaller, independent wine growers sweep out courtyards and cellars, dust off trestle tables and benches and throw open the gates to the public. It’s time for the annual Pique-Nique chez le Vigneron. Loads of Alsace estates take part – the full list, including 92 growers in both the Bas-Rhin (northern Alsace) and the Haut-Rhin (southern Alsace), is here. Continue reading

Playing around with Asparagus

1-stack2Asparagus, white and green, is popping up all around us here in Alsace – including a spear or three in our asparagus bed, which we planted this time last year and which I’m steeling myself not to pick – still another two years to wait till we can harvest them :-(

Here’s a recipe I devised for a recent workshop on modern Alsatian food. It’s a bit of a fiddle, but if you like playing around with your food and you love asparagus, it’s a winner. Serve with a crusty sarment loaf and a Muscat d’Alsace (what else) – a 2011  Cuvée Marie from Zusslin in Orschwihr, for example, or for a real/rare treat, a 2010 Clos des Capucins from Domaine Weinbach. Continue reading

Falling In Love with Vegetables (all over again)

carrotsIt’s no good, I can’t help myself. Just one look at those cheeky little bunches of mauve-tipped spring turnips, erect white asparagus, baby carrots with all their greenery intact, tumbling leaves of fresh spinach and shouty pink radishes and I fall in love all over again. Did I hear someone muttering that vegetables are boring?? Forget it. Vegetable cookery – as I discovered when I wrote my curiously titled Eat and Two Veg (you have to ask a Brit to explain it) – can provide some of the most creative kitchen moments going. EVER. Continue reading

Empordà Calling

1-IMG_2385It hardly matters which way you approach the Empordà region of Catalonia: from France, via Languedoc-Roussillon and across the border through which countless Republican refugees streamed at the end of the Civil War, or from Barcelona, which lies a little over one hour south. The landscape, flanked by the shimmering Mediterranean and dominated by the Pyrenees which rise to the north, is equally distinctive whichever route you choose. Continue reading

Basel’s Ethnic Food Scene

guacamole by Sue StyleWho’d have thunk it? A few years ago — okay, a bit more than a few — when I first came to Basel, foods common in other European countries, none of them particularly challenging (lamb, seafood), were hard to find. The only fish routinely available was farmed trout or Eglifilets/filets de perches. As for anything vaguely ethnic, forget it. Continue reading

Carnival is in the Air

1-1-IMG_8902You can tell Carnival’s in the air when those gorgeous sugar-dusted, deep-fried wonders called Fasnachtskiechle or merveilles de Carnaval start appearing in Swiss shops. At yesterday’s workshop we staged a raid on the pantry/freezer and came up with this super-speedy, super-simple torte for dessert: lay one of these fragile, sugar-dusted wonders in the bottom of a springform tin, arrange scoops of coffee ice cream on top,  slather with whipped cream into which you’ve crumbled some biscuits (Amaretti, Brunsli or more Kiechle crumbs) and top with a second Fasnachtskiechle…da da. A drizzle of dark choccy sauce doesn’t go amiss either. Brilliant for when you get guests at short notice, and it keeps beautifully in the freezer. Continue reading

Take a Winter Dip…into a Swiss Cheese Fondue

SCM photoFood writer and columnist Hattie Ellis (who btw also wrote a delicious book on honey) recently came to a presentation I did on Swiss cheese, together with Rachael Sills of KaseSwiss and Joelle Nebbe-Mornod of Alpine Wines. Now she’s written a lovely piece (The Field, Hattie Ellis) in this month’s issue of The Field all about the wonders of Swiss cheese and how these beauties are increasingly available outside Switzerland.

In London KaseSwiss on Druid Street or La Fromagerie on Moxon Street are great for Swiss cheese, while Whole Foods on Kensington High Street also has a terrific selection. In NYC Murrays and Artisanal have all you need and in Boston (and other cities) Formaggio Kitchen has a good range, while way down in sunny Florida, Caroline Hostettler at Quality Cheese is unbeatable. Loads more stockists are listed in the back of my cheese book.

It reminded me that now’s the time for fondue, if ever there was one (rain sluicing down over the UK, snow over the eastern US…) Continue reading

Thighs versus Breasts

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Guinea fowl thigh with sweet & purple potatoes and courgettes

I don’t know about you, but for myself, I’m a thighs girl. Thighs are meaty and moist. Breasts are lean and dry. At least as far as my fave poultry birds (viz chicken, duck and guinea fowl) are concerned.  And it’s not just the succulent-ness of thighs, it’s their alluring price. Continue reading