Moyaux than meets the eye…

Travel broadens the mind. Travel provides us with the opportunity to see, hear and most importantly eat things that we wouldn’t be able to experience at home, making it as far as I’m concerned a very important part of life. So why is it then that I have not been abroad since I was 12? The simple answer being I am terrified of flying and cannot bare the thought of getting on one of those tubular winged terror machines.

Luckily France is not too far away and a ferry can get me there in no more than a few hours dependent on which port you arrive at. Huzzah! And I must say that driving off the ferry and onto the somewhat alien road system was an interesting experience but one that now seems like easy work after staying there for just shy of two weeks. We stayed in a small town called Moyaux, not too far from Lisieux in Normandy, on a a site called Le Colombier which was situated on an old apple orchard. The French countryside provides a really lovely base of operations for an exploration of the north western part of the country and Normandy provides a brilliant source of local produce to explore. Moyaux is a small town or even a village that doesn’t seem to have a lot going on in it but provides a true look into how French people really live, as opposed to a place that is hopped up and bloated to keep up with a bloated feeling tourism demand that pushes it’s inherent “Frenchness” onto the back burner to conform to what people want to see. It represents quintessential Normandy life and is a place build around its Church where everything closes from around 12pm until at least 2pm. For help with the mental image see the village in the film ‘Chocolat’ but without the pouting, pony tailed and guitar brandishing Johnny Depp and replaced with a fairly average looking food blogger in a Vauxhall Astra.

There were a few things that really stood out to me that seemed to represent the produce of the area that included but were not limited to; apples, which they used to create tarts, ciders and a distilled cider brandy called Calvados.  The local cheese’s and dairy produce such as the thick and rich creme fraiche, camembert which is said to have originated in Normandy in 1791, Pont-l’Eveque which is very much like a squared brie which I find slightly firmer and Neufchâtel which boasts a smooth, creamy texture with a flavour that lands somewhere between a young and fairly well aged taste. It is certainly a region worth visiting for the cheese-o-philes among us, great with fresh bread and a selection of cured meats that are not so good for the waistline but extraordinarily super for the soul!

Lisieux offers a market on a Saturday that really doesn’t seem to hold anything that special when walking into it from the side of the Basilique where we parked, as it seemed to just be full of clothing and cheap watches which tend to not really interest me if I am really honest. However when you turn the corner just to the left of the library you see just what you need to see in France. Wall to wall food. Vegetables, fruit, seafood (Not a cloudy fish eye in sight) including some lovely Moule/mussels that we enjoyed that night in a paella, fresh crepes, bread, some awesome fresh, cured and very living meats, preserves and pretty much anything you could think of that you would want to see in France when looking for a feed.

I wandered around for a few hours in awe of just how good it was and feeling very lucky to be able to see it frankly as at the time we visited the farmers of France were on strike in relation to the price of meat and milk being paid to them by the large supermarket chains. I had heard about the French supermarkets as something to behold in comparison to what we have in the UK and unfortunately it took a few days for us to get to the closest one due to the roads being closed due to farmers parking their tractors all around the hypermarket. We got around to it somehow one day before the strike moved on to Le Havre and found burning piles of cow feces, agricultural waste strewn all over the place and angry farm workers waving us off the exits which led to the store. An interesting experience to be in but if I am honest I totally support their cause and wish them luck in their endeavor’s, farms work damn hard to keep up with supply in countries all over the world and they deserve to be fairly reimbursed for their incredible amount of hard work.

Drink. Something that you need to cover when giving a run down of Normandy it seems as they are famous for their production of Calvados brandy, which is a really smooth drink for even me who is not in any way shape or form a Brandy drinker. It is actually very good when added to fried onions and put on top of a heftily loaded burger, however that is an expensive and wasteful practice to a true connoisseur! I basically lived off Grimbergen while I stayed there which seems to be a staple beer in France, It is available in some really tasty varieties such as poire/pear, kriek/berry, ruby, blonde and white to name a few that I can remember.

In summary, France offered some incredible experiences and I can’t wait to go back again. While there we visited the Bayaux tapestry, the landing beaches, Monet’s garden and the camp site was a wonderful place to relax offering a lovely little creperie just past the pool that offered take away food which I have to be honest, wasn’t perfect but it certainly filled a void if needed (heres to you Croque monsieur). Normandy is somewhere that I would recommend visiting to any person who loves food, drink and culture to visit as it has all three categories covered in droves, just don’t be scared to run off the beaten track and go somewhere other than the hypermarkets as Normandy in particular has so much to offer to reward your exploration. So if travel really does broaden the mind, consider my mind broadened.

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Simple cod burger with gnocchi sardi salad

So, its now April apparently and it very much seems like March was one of those months that disappeared faster than a horse running at the national. The months seem to fly now that the clocks have changed and even though it is incredible to be having some lighter evenings to relax outside, it just seems like time goes a little bit faster when your enjoying yourself in pub gardens and having barbeques at home.

All the more reason to make the most of all this sunshine were currently having! The bank holiday was an absolute beauty weather wise and there certainly was no shortage of people taking their chance to have a pint by the canal at my local, the Fox and Anchor near Coven.

It is not very often I rave about a chain pub but I do love the Fox as it has a great ambiance in the winter when they light the log fires and even more so when they are buzzing with summer beer garden seekers. I even got a little bit sunburned. Which is not exactly hard as I burn like an ant under a blow torch.

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Now that we have all emerged from our wintery cocoons its time for some lighter food to compliment the bottles of Corona on the lawn (slice of lime optional but advised). White fish comes to mind as its quick, fresh and light on the pallet while being full of protein and really satisfying, paired up with this pasta salad which is the true star of this dish,makes a great meal. Enhanced further by the fact that its full of all the good stuff you can fit in without it becoming unbalanced, you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself afterwards. No guilt. No hastle.

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Try this recipe on for size next time your feeling lazy on one of these warmer evenings.

Serves 4

For the burger:

  • 2 cod loins. Both halved.
  • 4 wholemeal buns.
  • Tartar sauce.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Pepper.
  • Few salad leaves of your choice.
  • Olive oil.

Pasta salad:

  • 400g gnocchi sardi.
  • 1 small box of cherry or small variety of tomatoes, all halved.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 1 red and 1 orange pepper, diced.
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn.
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped.
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 5 tablespoons of zero fat Greek yoghurt.
  • 5 tablespoons light mayonnaise.
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta to pack instructions.
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir in all of the other ingredients apart from the courgette.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on a medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the courgette until it starts to brown a little, then remove and mix into the salad.
  4. Give a good few turns on a salt and pepper mill.
  5. Chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Use the preheated pan and add a little more oil.
  7. Add the cod loin halves and fry on a medium heat for around 4 minutes. Turn over and repeat.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add a tablespoon of soy sauce, give the pan a shake so it reaches all of the fish, do this for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  9. Cut the rolls and put around a teaspoon of tartar sauce on both halves. Lay a few leaves on the bottom half, followed by the soy fried fish, along with anything else you want to add. (Go crazy, its a blank canvas).
  10. Finish with one big sprinkle of black pepper, cap it off with the top half of the bread and serve with a big spoon full of the pasta.

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Its another very simple but very effective recipe to fill a void after a hard day at work when the evening is best spent enjoying the sunshine outside!

Peanut butter pie (And the discovery of Brighton)

During the transitional period from the old blog and my change in circumstances that forced me to have some downtime from writing, I visited Brighton to see my fiancés best friend and her partner in Brighton. Id never been there before and thought it would just be the usual sort of British seaside town brimming with rock shops, amusements and novelty gifts, albeit with a more southern twang in the dialect. I usually despise being wrong but I must say I’m quite happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong about Brighton.

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Barring London, I genuinely don’t believe I have been to a better melting pot of modern, youthful culture, foreign flavours, gastronomic innovation and classic heritage. It just boggles the mind as to how diverse Brighton is when it comes to the people, the food and the experiences available to you. You can have fish and chips if your looking for the traditional seaside Heron gull enticing flavours or you can go crazy and have chilli and lime fish with sweet potato fries, a plethora of vegetarian restaurants (which were fantastic!), confectionery you have never even thought of before and vendors that push the boundaries of what you think you can buy from a stall. Not forgetting that this is the spiritual and physical home of choccywoccydoodah. Spell check is going mad at me for that but if you haven’t seen the TV show it’s a business that build the most ridiculous chocolate creations you have ever seen. http://www.choccywoccydoodah.com

When we arrived the weather was, in a word, horrific. I have never heard thunder like it and the rain was hitting the window so hard it was like a swarm of furious birds frantically scratching at the window to get at us as we tried to sleep. However we were blessed to wake up to beautiful blue skies and a heat that had the potential to burn my ridiculously sunshine shy skin to a level that can only be compared to a well-done baked potato. The combination of the amazing food that surrounded me during my trip combined with the crisp, blue sky and crystal clear seas left me with a lot of inspiration to come home with. Summer in Brighton had taken me from someone who had a few ideas to someone who was ravenously clamouring to create….with a sweet tooth to satisfy. This recipe is the perfect fit for someone who wants to give their family a treat for a day or give themselves a treat for a few days!

So we made the following recipe. A peanut butter pie sounds a bit rich and chewy doesn’t it? Don’t worry you don’t just tip a jar of peanut butter into a flan case! See below for the recipe for this funky little number.

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What you’ll need:

For the base –

  • 25 oat based biscuits (Finely crushed) but any plain biscuit will do!
  • 70g melted butter

Tip: Preheat your oven at 170 degrees.

For the filling –

  • 225g peanut butter (We used smooth but nothing wrong with using chunky)
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 225g double cream (Well whipped)

Method:

  1. In a food processor blitz the biscuits into a fine sandy texture, add the melted butter and whiz into a lumpy consistency. Ensuring all biscuits and butter and mixed together.
  2. Put the mix into a medium pie dish and cover the base and sides well. Bake for 5-7 minutes in the oven.
  3. Mix the peanut butter and cream cheese together until its smooth. Add the icing sugar and mix well until combined.
  4. Once this is done, add the cream to the peanut butter mix and stir through until again, well combined.
  5. Pour the filling into the base (preferably by now it has cooled) and spread evenly.
  6. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Note – Always mix the ingredients for the filling separately and not at the same time to achieve the best consistency!

The Honu burger

As some people are aware I am very much associated with burgers. Everybody always asks me if I have any new burger recipes or if I still cook the recipe I took to the battle of the burgers final in 2013, this in fairness is completely justified as I do love making and eating a nice burger! There are so many flavour combinations that can be slotted under an equal amount of buns or breads, its the gift that keeps on giving.

 

I have a huge passion for food as you can guess, but I also have an equal amount of passion for animals and wildlife. Birds and sea life in particular. I have been reading for the past few years about the decline in the sea turtle or “Honu” population and it was heart breaking to come to terms with the fact that they had got to a point where they were near extinction. Such a gracious, docile and beautiful creature driven to the precipice of oblivion, not surprisingly accelerated by the western world starting to haunt the shores of Hawaii. However there is an upside, populations are making a gradual recovery thanks to designated conservation sites and a huge effort from the sort of people who don’t want to see the beautiful gifts the earth has given us disappear.

You can read more about this here if you wish: http://www.wildhawaii.org/marinelife/turtles.html

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So its for this reason I have decided to write a recipe and name it in honour of an icon of Hawaii. A symbol of conservation in the western hemisphere and a wonderful creature that deserves our attention to keep it around for the next generation to appreciate. The fact it is slightly easier to pronounce than the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a burger also is a contributing factor! (The Hawaiian state fish)

Which brings me onto the ‘Meat’ of this sandwich. The recipe. It uses the zingy fresh tang of tropical pineapple to cut through the luscious beef patty and salty smoked bacon, creating an all round enjoyable experience that should hopefully bring a little bit of sunshine to meal time! Recipe should cover approximately 4 people.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 medium wholemeal buns.
  • 600g beef mince.
  • 12 pieces of smoked streaky bacon.
  •  4 rings of canned pineapple, chopped.
  • Your choice of salad leaves.
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese.
  • Worcester sauce.
  • Salt and pepper.

Method:

In a bowl combine the mince with a tablespoon of Worcester sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper. Mix well with clean hands until well combined however try not to overwork it as the burgers will become tougher to eat. Get both hands in the bowl and work into a ball.

Break the ball of mince into 4 and squash into round shaped patties of equal size (around 1cm or so thick). Leave in the fridge for a minimum 30 minutes to rest. Make a small thumb print in the middle of the burger to stop it popping up too much during cooking.

pre-heat a frying pan and a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the patties. Add the burgers to the pan 2 at a time and fry for around 4-5 minutes a side. Pop the bacon in the griddle pan and dry fry until crispy on both sides (or to your own preference).

On the last turn of the beef, add a tablespoon of chopped pineapple, toped with the cheese. Turn the heat off and allow them to rest for a minute or two in their own juices. The cheese will relax and spread over the fruit, locking it to the top of the patty.

Remove the bacon and leave on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb any unwanted grease or fat.

Cut the buns, add a dollop of mayo or ketchup on the bottom half (your choice, go wild!) and a few of the leaves. Cross 3 pieces of bacon over the salad and sit the burger on top.

Pin it with a skewer so it doesn’t all try and escape…And your done! I served mine with roasted new potatoes for a healthier option to chips or fries.

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So there you have it. The “Honu” burger! A burger that in my opinion makes meal time a little sunnier. A tip of the hat to an ancient and very awesome member our oceanic heritage. Here’s to you turtles!

Oriental vegetable noodles with grilled salmon and firecracker sauce

An old recipe I found, one of the first I ever wrote but certainly worth a go! Its my ode to the exiting and vibrant flavours involved in Chinese and Asian cooking. If your not a lover of fish substitute it with a few chicken breasts, whether its used as a summer treat sitting in your garden or a winter warmer eaten while snuggled up in your wing back chair on a Saturday night, its sure to go down well.

Oriental vegetable noodles with grilled salmon and firecracker sauce

To serve 2 you’ll need:

4 small Pak choi, quartered.

handful of button mushrooms, quartered.

4 baby corns , finely chopped.

100g Dried egg noodles. (usually flat packed in packs of four)

Mixed bell peppers, julienned.

4 spring onions, diced.

2 medium sized salmon fillets.

Pinch sea salt.

for the Firecracker sauce:

2 Tbsp rapeseed oil

1 cup chicken stock stock.

2 Tbsp red cooking wine.

3 Tbsp of soy sauce.

2 level Tspn garlic powder.

1 Tspn ground ginger.

2 Large fresh chili’s (I used 1 green and one red) finely chopped.

2 Tbsp of honey.

Method for the sauce:

1) Add the stock and wine, to a frying pan or wok. Bring to a gentle simmer.

2) Once at a simmer add the honey, garlic, ginger and chili’s (including the seeds!)

3) Now leave on a medium high heat for a few minutes until it reduces by half, then take it completely off the heat.

Method for the noodles:

Preheat your grill.

1) Add the salt to some water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Then add the noodles and veg leave for a few minutes on a high heat until the noodles soften, leaving some crunch in the veg.

2) Pat dry the salmon, adding a little salt and pepper to one side of each of the filets and place under the grill. grill for around 4-5 minutes each side. the flesh should release a milky, mayonaise sort of looking fat into the grill pan and will flake really easily once cooked. (Keep an eye on it and don’t over cook it as it really is key to the dish to have that lovely salmon on top!)

3) drain the noodles, retaining a little of the cooking water.

4) Put the sauce back on the heat and add the noodles, mixing well.

5) Serve the salmon on a bed of noodles, dress with any remaining sauce and devour!

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Fisherman’s friend – my ultimate parsley sauce

Today is just one of those average days. I got up, I went to work, came home and got back into the kitchen the first opportunity I had. I fancied a change and figured that I had been going pretty heavy on the calories of late, so fancied something a little lighter. In this case I went for a pair of wonderfully blushing, pink salmon fillets.

I adore fish, when utilized properly it soars above most animal products in my opinion and really does have something special to offer. Sea bass, Tuna, haddock, Pollock, breem, they all have their own qualities to bring to a dish and sometimes just by adding a little something it can drive it up to the next level. Which brings me to the point of this post, my parsley sauce. Its seriously simple but very good!

What you will need:

200ml whole milk
1 tablespoon white flour
1.5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Hand full of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of fine sea salt.

Method:

1. Add the olive oil, butter and flour to a pan on a low heat and mix together as the butter melts. Stir until combined into a paste like consistency.
2. Pour in the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly.
3. Add the mustard, salt and parsley.
4. Keep the sauce on a low heat for around 5 minutes, giving it a stir to make sure it doesn’t burn around the sides.

And that’s it! Just spread over your favorite fish and enjoy. Its tasty and its simple. Not a combination people usually turn their nose up at…oh and the mustard really does make a difference to this one as well so don’t forget it!

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Summer collection (MKT repost)

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What an amazing few weeks were having here in the UK. The sun is beaming down with such intensity I cannot go inside for fear of missing out, but even then cant go from under the shade due to me burning like a rose petal in a furnace with the slightest lick of a UV ray!. It even smells summery in the garden most days with the humidity and the flowers, the only draw back being the mammoth sized bee’s flying around the flower beds, but I can deal with that.

I have a few things I have done this week to post all together in what I am calling the Gecko summer collection. Both super easy, One is for my friends at ‘forever’ and the other one is just purely indulgent on my part. Lovely, full flavoured beauties that can compliment your barbecue or give you something to pick at after you have finished watching the rugby highlights, Wimbledon or the German F1.

First up, for the ‘Forever together’ detoxers and healthy people among us:

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My ‘Sunshine salad’ Approx 400 calories per serving give or take

3 eggs, boiled.

3 Basil leaves

Big handful of mixed leaves of your choice.

3 spring onions

1 Medium sized red chili

4-5 sundried tomatoes

6 thin slices of cucumber

Vinaigrette of your choice. (I used a raspberry one that I picked up at the food festival last week)

Method:

1) Put your handful of leaves in a large bowl, tear up any big ones roughly. keep it comfortably bit sized throughout!

2) chop the chili, basil, spring onion, cucumber and sundried tomatoes and add to the bowl.

3) Lightly drizzle with your vinaigrette and gently toss .

4) Place the salad onto a plate and slice to eggs in nice thin sections.

5) Scatter the egg around the salad and top with a slight, waist friendly hint of cheese to add an alternative texture to the dish.

…Now I don’t care where in the world you are, you shouldn’t resist at least trying this!. Its super easy but very satisfying when the modd doesnt allow you the motivation to make something too taxing. Salads are a quintessential part of summer eating and this is a fresh, tasty way to spend lunch in your garden.

Number two, Another fairly healthy one but this one will make your mouth feel as hot as it is outside.

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My ‘Oriental noodles with grilled salmon and firecracker sauce’.

To serve 2 you’ll need:

4 small Pak choi

handful of button mushrooms

4 baby corns

1x dried noodles. (usually flat packed in packs of four)

mixed peppers, sliced length ways.

4 spring onions

2 decently sized pieces of salmon fillet

Pinch sea salt

for the Firecracker sauce:

1 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons red cooking wine

1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic

1/2 teaspoon ginger

2 long chili’s (I used 1 green and one red)

1 tablespoon of honey.

This is a beautifully aromatic sauce that smells amazing and provides intense taste while providing a real punch. If you aren’t a fan of the spice just leave the fresh chili’s out and add a touch of mild powder or none at all even.

Method for the sauce:

1) Add the stock and wine and bring to a gentle simmer. Chop the chili’s finely.

2) Once at a simmer add the honey, garlic, ginger and chili’s (including the seeds!)

3) Now leave on a medium heat for around 15 minutes until it reduces a little, then take it completely off the heat.

Method for the noodles:

Preheat your grill at a medium to high heat. (mines goes from 1-4 I put it on 3)

1) Add the salt to some water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then add the noodles and leave for approximately 5 minutes on a high heat.

2) Pat dry then add a little salt and pepper to one side of each salmon fillet and place under the grill. grill for around 4-5 minutes each side. the flesh should release a milky, mayonnaise sort of looking fat into the grill pan and will flake really easily once cooked. (Keep an eye on it and don’t over cook it as it really is key to the dish to have that lovely salmon on top!)

3) Chop the corn into thirds, the mushrooms into halves and the Pak choi into quarts.

4) When the noodles start to loosen and separate in the pan, add the corn and leave for 3 minutes to simmer on a medium to high heat.

5) Add the Pak choi, mushrooms, spring onions and the peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes. I prefer my veg a little crunchy so cook for a little while longer if you need to.

Serve a decent grasp of the veggie noodles onto a plate, top with the grilled salmon and serve the sauce on the side to top as much as your brave enough too!

Now my advice is to get in the kitchen real quick while somebody else grabs the garden furniture, run outside with this pair of fabulous summer platters, and smash it with a nice cold glass of ginger beer or elderflower cordial before it starts to rain again!

Phil