Over the hols we scored some cracking sparklers and whites but there was no shortage of toothsome reds either. It’s been an unusually (for us) carnivorous few days, so meaty reds were required. Direct democracy ruled when it came to choosing the Christmas menu and the popular vote went to a rib of roast beef with potatoes done in duck fat and a gorgeous mix of butternut and red onions with tahini. Continue reading
Before slinking off to the bottle bank with the evidence of our Christmas excesses, I had fun fishing bottles out of the wheelie bin, reliving the memories of the ones we especially relished and which we’ll buy again if the opportunity arises – and making a a mental note of which ones not to bother with in the future. Here’s my roundup of sparklers and still whites. Reds will follow.
This being Christmas, there was a fair bit of bubbly around. Chez nous this is rarely Champagne – we work on the principle that a decent, well-made sparkler is always preferable to a run-of-the-mill, non-vintage Champagne and we love hunting down interesting bottles from the regions on our doorstep (Alsace and Baden/Germany) as well as from our other favourite stamping ground, Catalunya. Continue reading
I love New Year’s Eve, on condition that I don’t have to go anywhere or celebrate with anyone except my significant other, and provided we can be in bed by latest 10.30 p.m. It’s the perfect pretext for a very private feast for two. This year ours consisted of seared slices of duck foie perched on a pillow of pureed parsnips with slivers of crisp-fried parsnips and a little Balsamic vinegar drizzled round about (gotta have drizzle). Continue reading
I’m feeling a little flat (not to mention a similar-sounding word that’s shorter by one letter) after the holidays, but it was brilliant fun and I’m consoling myself with the memory of it all, from the planning (love figuring out what we’re going to eat) right through to the feasting.
Best/favourite foods of the holidays? First off: a Pata Negra ham procured by our kids who live in Spain and sent on in advance of their arrival by courier – we all got better at carving it in thin slices as the holidays wore on and the almost-last flakes provided a wonderful tapa at yesterday’s post-walk New Year’s Day lunch in Alsace (on the terrace in bright sunshine and 18 degrees, no kidding). Continue reading
The menu at my last workshop of the season (Keep Calm…Carry on Cooking) took us around the world, starting in Alsace with little charlottes of fresh choucroute with smoked salmon turned out over a lamb’s lettuce salad and surrounded with avocado segments. Next we headed for Morocco with some cigar-sized crispy brik pastry parcels filled with duck and citron confit with a harissa-spicy dipping sauce – great finger food for parties or just while you’re waiting for the main event. We also did a Spanish soup of fennel and veg. with mussels and saffron, while the main course was full-on Mexican – Aztec pie with layers of tortillas, cooked turkey (great home for leftovers), tomato sauce, peppers and chiles poblanos, and sweetcorn. A salad of kohlrabi with shaved apples and a lime dressing made a good, sharp, crunchy counterpoint and we finished in Italy with a limoncello tiramisu – just had to try that one out after tasting one down on the Amalfi Coast in October.
The tips and tricks to take the pressure off harried holiday cooks were fun too, and formed the backbone of my once-monthly foodie chat on last Tuesday’s English Show on Radio X Basel (94.5FM in the Basel region, podcast here). Here’s a selection of ideas that should help anyone here in the Dreiländereck (and further afield) with their holiday planning. Continue reading
Considering France’s reputation where wine is concerned, it’s always puzzled me that their restaurants are so stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to offering decent drops by the glass. Feel feel to disagree (better still, give me lots of addresses to prove me wrong) but my impression is that eateries in almost any other country do a better job. Of the ones I’ve eaten out in of late, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, the UK and Australia get lots of brownie points. In some countries they simply bring you the bottle, invite you to drink what you like from it and charge you according to consumption (or stick the cork back into it for you to take home). Spain is admirable at this, plus their wine markups are exemplary in their modesty. Continue reading
If you’re feeling oppressed by tat and tinsel, bothered by obese Santas and fed up with canned Christmas carols, it could be time for a visit to the cross-border triangle formed by Alsace, Basel and the Black Forest. Wooden booths like tiny chalets settle down around cathedrals and town halls, offering goods that privilege the hand-crafted, classy and rare over the cheap, cheerless and Made in China. Better still, Christmas markets over here are not just a buying frenzy, they’re a social occasion, a chance to meet up with old friends – a sort of northerly, wintery version of the Latin summer evening paseo. Feet are stamped, frozen fingers are wrapped round cups of mulled wine, stupendously calorific comfort food with local accents is offered on every corner. For complete perfection, snowflakes drift gently down and muffle the voices and footsteps of the shuffling crowds. Continue reading
The Swiss are champion sausage makers all year round, but it’s in November that Wurst really comes into its own. This is the season for the country’s annual sausage feasts, variously called Metzgete (in German-speaking areas), La Saint Martin (in French-speaking parts) or la mazza (where Italian is spoken).
Traditionally, November signaled that the game was up for the family pig. With the harvest in and ploughing done, potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips stored, and apples and pears ranged on shelves, things began to quieten down on the farm. As the weather turned cooler, thoughts turned to putting up provisions for winter. And in countries like Switzerland, porky provisions were always a big part of the mix. Continue reading
Every year, the branches of my quince tree are lit up with golden globes of deliciously perfumed fruit. First I make jelly, then I make quince cheese (paste) – wonderful with a sharp cheese such as Manchego or any of those wonderful Catalan artisan cheeses I recently wrote about in an article in the Weekend FT. After a pause (quince cheese is very, very messy and arduous and I need a break and a lie-down in a darkened room after making it), I might brew up some quince chutney with oranges and raisins, which will be nicely ripe for Christmas. But there are still golden globes hanging on the tree to tempt (or maybe taunt?) me. Cue for quince tarte tatin. Continue reading
I’m quite brave about buying fish, best of all something weird and wonderful that I’ve never cooked or eaten before. But I’m a whole lot less adventurous when it comes to meat. This week, while checking out the fish at Match, my eye strayed to the meat counter and fell upon a piece of onglet. Hmm. I’ve met this choice morsel of steak in bistros and brasseries and always loved it – generally cooked à l’échalote, a sort of gorgeously jammy mess of shallots. But I’d never bought it or done it up at home. What is it and which part of the boeuf does it come from? Not a clue. Continue reading