Monday, 24 March 2014

March 2014 Favourites List

March has been a quiet month on my blog. My sister just got married in Kerala, in south India, so I’ve been away. The wedding was beautiful, touching, emotional, colourful and joyful. My congratulations go to her and her new husband.

Kerala is a stunningly beautiful place, and very different from northern India. When people commonly visit India, they go to the architectural and historic sites up in the north west; Delhi, Agra (for the Taj Mahal), Jaipur, and Udaipur. The north west is dry and hot, the food has Mughal and Muslim influences with wheaten handbreads and rich yoghurt and ghee based sauces.

Chinese fishing nets, Fort Cochi, Kerala

Kerala in the south has a cuisine shaped by the prevalence of ingredients; rice is plentiful and is cooked as it is or ground. The flour is used to make noodles, idli or is fermented to make a batter used to make appams (curved pancakes). The rice native to the area has fat rounded grains with a red skin which has to be milled away. Coconut oil is the frying agent and coconut milk is frequently used in sauces. Fish is plentiful and is often cooked in banana leaves to lock in the moisture and prevent overcooking. The many fruits and vegetables are used in curries and rapidly stir fried salads called thorans.

Kerala’s moist and tropical climate means spices grow readily and banana trees and palm trees are everywhere. The beaches and backwaters are green, lush and a tonic to the jaded senses of people who have faced the long English Winter.

So naturally, my pictures this month are from my trip. Spring has finally sprung in the UK, and I am lucky enough to write this in my kitchen with the sun on my back as I type. The sky is blue and birds are singing by my back door. I’m looking forward to soon putting my coats away.

Kerala's tranquil backwaters

Blogs Worth Following: Gill describes her blog as "Tales of triumph and disaster in the kitchen", but it's triumph all the way - varied recipes from baking to dinners Cookery tutor and all round culinary expert Lin's lovely blog

The backwaters at Kumarakom Lake Resort

Vegetarian recipe by Deena Kakaya, a Roast potato, mung bean, tomato and feta cheese salad with herbs and spices:

Worknight supper dish of Cod, Chorizo and potatoes. Kavey works her magic again.

Chickpea, Carrot & Coriander Falafels - recipe by Jack Monroe

From my friend Karin Struyk, whose friend Bozena Uranowska found these Russian fermented veg snack recipes - any translation or English versions would be much appreciated!

A stew of beef and mooli radish inspired by Cantonese cuisine:

Freeze ahead Lentil Ragu, for students or anyone else pressed for either time to cook or money:

Burmese Chicken curry named "Kyet Thar Sipyan":
Tea country, Munnar, Kerala

Never had the guts to poach a whole chicken, but this Hainan Chicken rice recipe is tempting me to try...

In honour of avid foodie and cook Clarissa Dickson Wright, who died this month, pork with plums:

Articles/Know How:

The most common problems and solutions for effective pressure cooker use. I don't have or use one, but I do know they are pretty damn good for stews, curries and the like.

Author of the Miss Masala cookbook, Mallika Basu shares her top 10 tips to make Indian food healthy and fast:


Inside Llewyn Davis

Enough Said

Despicable Me 2


Candie Payne - I Wish I Could Have Loved You More

Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left

Arctic Monkeys - AM

Water taxi on the backwaters

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Augustine Kitchen's Nicoise Salade

Nicoise salad is a classic southern French dish. The original version has certain rules to it, such as ALL of the ingredients being raw. Yes, even the green beans! 

Franck Raymond of Battersea restaurant Augustine's Kitchen has created his own version, which retains the best elements of the Nicoise tradition (from Nice on the south coast of France), but with a modern and accessible twist. 

Augustine Kitchen is Franck's big move into the London restaurant scene. It celebrates his roots in the south of France on the border with Switzerland in the town of Evian, famed for the mineral water of the same name. The food is honest, prepared with love and care and have a different feel from the Parisian bistro food we are more familiar with in the Uk.

One of my favourite features of the restaurant is the strong sense of family recipes and heritage present. The pictures of family members and their influence on the recipes and menu selections make this restaurant like taking a little step into French territory.

I hope you will give this quintessential salad a go at home. It is easy and quick to make.

Augustine Kitchen's Nicoise Salade

Serves 4

Franck's Vinaigrette


A pinch of salt
50g Dijon mustard
50ml red wine vinegar
100ml vegetable oil


In a large bowl make the vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar and the mustard.

Slowly whisk in the oil in a thin stream to emulsify the mixture.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you don't use it all in one go, you can put the remaining vinaigrette in a glass container or jar and keep in the fridge for up to a week. 

Franck's Nicoise salade


100g of French beans, topped
4 quail eggs (boiled and quartered)
12 black olives, pitted
1 can of tuna, fully drained
100g of mixed chopped peppers
4 cherry tomatoes, which you can halve or quarter
8 salted anchovies
a small Cos lettuce


Drain the anchovies of oil and pat them dry. 

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Add half the beans, cover, and steam until they are tender firm, about 6 minutes. 

Remove from the steamer and let cool on a wire rack covered with a cotton tea towel. Repeat with the remaining beans. 

Transfer one-third of the dressing to a medium sized bowl. 

Toss the beans and the peppers with enough vinaigrette to fully moisten them. Top them with the anchovy fillets. 

Quarter the eggs, and place them, with the tomatoes. 

Break the tuna apart into large pieces. Sprinkle with the olives. 

Drizzle with any remaining vinaigrette. Serve immediately.