Tasting Sardinia – Fregola with Seafood and Saffron

20150905_150408-002Every year for the past three, we’ve celebrated the dying days of summer with the family somewhere in Italy. To date it’s been the Amalfi Coast, then Sicily, and this year Sardinia. We basked in turquoise waters, soaked up the last rays of sun, quaffed fragrant Vermentino di Gallura and explosive Cannonau (aka Garnacha/Grenache) and committed to the barbecue what must have been the priciest fish ever purchased (at least by me) – a dentice, since you ask, and delicious he was too. He weighed in at over 2 kilos and fed 7 of us handsomely for one meal with enough leftovers for a fish salad with avocado, ceviche-style. Continue reading “Tasting Sardinia – Fregola with Seafood and Saffron”

Apple Pies = Domestic Happiness

windfall russet apples by Sue Style“Good apple pies”, wrote Jane Austen, “are a considerable part of domestic happiness”. Of course she didn’t give a recipe for her optimal apple pie, but I have a hunch it was an English-type job, with pastry over and under, and those lovely Bramley apples that subside into a fluff on cooking.

Based in Alsace, France, I incline more to a tarte aux pommes, the kind that only has pastry below and where the apples keep their shape. The alsaciens are masters at the art of the tarte; there’s always one sitting on the kitchen dresser, dusted with icing sugar and waiting to be served up with ice cream. Continue reading “Apple Pies = Domestic Happiness”

Vinous Visits (and awards) in the Valais

20150818_140314-001My visits to the Valais, Switzerland’s southernmost, sunbaked canton, are a bit like the Number Nine Bus. For ages there are none on the horizon; then all of a sudden along come two or three in a row. So it has been of late. First I was invited to serve on the panel at a Grand Prix du Vin Suisse event organised in Sierre by Vinea, the Swiss wine promotion body. A large group of tasters had done the hard work for us in advance, selecting just 72 wines from over 3,000 submitted by 550 different producers from all over the country; our task was to decide on the final rankings (numbering them from 1 to 6) of these top wines, presented in 12 flights (Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Syrah, red blends, white blends etc. etc.) – fun, instructive and a great opportunity for me to see what’s fermenting on the Swiss wine front today. Continue reading “Vinous Visits (and awards) in the Valais”

Pesto Time

IMG_1629 (2)This year my basil has reached for the stars and covered itself with glory. I bought one of those dwindly plants in the supermarket and kept it indoors for a bit. It clearly wasn’t a happy bunny – the leaves began to yellow and a few dropped off despondently. Time to go out, I told it, sternly. I planted it in the bed beside the terrace and close to the kitchen so I’d be able to raid it all summer long. Discreet applications of slug pellets kept the beasts at bay while it was still an infant. After a while I could see it was relishing its new home. Now it’s about twice the size it was when bought, and flowers are beginning to appear. Time for pesto. Continue reading “Pesto Time”

Dilled Salmon for Summer

dilled salmon (3)I’ve always wondered, is it gravlax? Or gravadlax? Let’s just call it dilled salmon. So much simpler – and so perfect to have on hand for summer evenings. [If you’re thinking you’ve got a touch of déjà vu, that’s because I’ve posted this before – no apologies for repeating, it’s just soooooooooo good.] This is one of those recipes where farmed salmon works unusually well. How come? Farmed salmon is, let’s face it, a bit on the flabby side. Who can blame it? If you were wallowing about in a big cage at the mouth of a sea loch rather than fighting your way up the river above that sea loch (having fought your way across the ocean to get there), you’d be flabby too. The point is that by curing the fillet with salt and a smidge of sugar (and loads of dill, natch), you encourage it to release lots and lots of water. The result is firm, dense and packed with flavour. Try it. Continue reading “Dilled Salmon for Summer”