Sunday, October 31, 2010

In season: Walnuts

The end of August to late November is walnut harvesting season. They are available in the shops year-round; but if you are lucky enough to live near some walnut trees now is the time to go foraging.

Interesting facts about walnuts!

-The word 'walnut' comes from the Old English word wealhhnutu, literally meaning 'foreign nut'... because it was originally introduced from France and Italy.

-The best known variety is the Persian Walnut (also called the English Walnut), one which has a large nut and thin shell which makes it more suitable for eating than other varieties, such as the Eastern Black Walnut which has an extremely tough shell and smaller nut.

-The world's largest producer and exporter of English Walnuts is California's Central Valley.

Recipe: Walnut Pesto


-150g walnuts
-100g grated parmesan
-200g creme fraiche/ cream cheese
-1 tbsp fresh parsley/ basil
-1 tbsp olive oil

1. Put all ingredients into a mixer and blend to a paste. You can vary the quantities of each ingredient to taste.
2. I served this spread over some par-boiled celery hearts, topped with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven for 30 minutes. You could also use it as a pasta sauce, or as a pâté for toasts.

Recipe: Pickled Walnuts

PICKLED WALNUTS. Thanks to my Grannie for this recipe :-)


  • Soft green walnuts,
  • Brine, using 100g salt for each litre of water.
  • Spiced vinegar (to get a good result, to every litre of cider vinegar add 5 - 10g of whole spices such as cloves, allspice, cinnamon, white peppercorns, ginger).

Bruise the spices lightly under a cloth to release their flavour.

For a quick method of spicing the vinegar put it in a heatproof

bowl, add the spices and cover with a plate. Stand the bowl in a

saucepan of cold water, bring gently to the boil and remove from

heat. Leave for 2 hours, do not move the plate or the flavour will

be lost.

For the walnuts : use walnuts whose shells have not begun to form.

Prick well with a stainless fork. If the shell can be felt, do not use.

The shell begins to form opposite the stalk, about 5 mm from the end.

Cover with the brine and leave to soak for about 6 days.

Drain, make fresh brine, and leave to soak for another 7 days.

Drain and spread on a single layer of clean newspaper,

leaving them exposed to the air, preferably in sunshine, until

they blacken (1 – 2 days).

Pack into prepared jars and cover with hot spiced vinegar.

Put on vinegar-proof covers when cold,


Note : to prevent stained hands, always wear gloves when

handling walnuts .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chutney Workshop

It's chutney season! I love this time of year. There are lots of nice apples, plums, and other
vegetables around to put into chutneys. If kept well they can last for months. Here are a few photos from my latest chutney session, I made carrot chutney with indian spices. Anne made apple chutney. They both worked out well!

Here is roughly what went in mine:

Makes 4 x 225g jars.


-4 large carrots, peeled and grated
-2 small apples, peeled and finely chopped
-75g sultanas
-1 clove garlic, finely chopped
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-2cm fresh ginger, grated
-200g light muscavado sugar
-300ml cider vinegar
-1tsp of each of the following: nigella seeds, brown mustard seeds, ground coriander, chili flakes.
-Good pinch of salt


1. Put all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes, or until soft.
2. Meanwhile sterilise the jars by placing them in an oven set at 110°c, upside down, for at least 30 minutes (without the lids).
3. Carefully spoon the chutney into the jars, pressing down as you go, and seal the lid tightly.
4. Label the jars and store in a dark place for at least one month before eating.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Restaurant Review: L'Art du Fromage, London

I was very lucky to be taken to this restaurant recently. Located in Fulham it is a real gem for those who like French cooking, and cheese in particular! Their menu is based mostly around cheese, although there are a few cheese-free options.

I decided to have my first fondue of the season, but was equally tempted by the "cloche" of cheeses and cheese tasting boards. Upon entry to the restaurant, you walk past their huge chilled cabinet of cheeses, and the whole place is filled with the smell of cheese (in fact; if you don't like cheese for some reason it is probably best not to go there!). The restaurant itself has a very cosy feel and the service was excellent. Their wines are equally very good.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe: Mushroom, chestnut and Dijon mustard soup


250g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
200g chestnuts (cooked and chopped)
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small turnip, peeled and diced (Alternatively use an extra shallot)
1 clove garlic, crushed,
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
3 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 vegetable stock cube/ 1 tsp marmite
Sunflower oil for frying
Salt, pepper

1. In a large saucepan, gently fry the shallot and turnip in some sunflower oil for 5 -10 minutes. In a separate frying pan, fry the mushrooms and chestnuts in sunflower oil until the mushrooms have browned. Reserve ¼ of the mix and add the rest to the saucepan with the shallot and turnip. To this add the garlic and parsley and cook for a further 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the mustard and add the stock. Cover with a good amount of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the turnip is soft. Puree in a food processor/ with a hand mixer. Stir through the reserved mushrooms and chestnuts and serve.

This would be very nice served with some toasts topped with bleu d’auvergne (cheese of the month!) and some red wine.

Tip: make sure the mushrooms are of good quality as they have more flavour. Button mushrooms for example wouldn't be suitable for this recipe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cheese of the month: Bleu d'Auvergne AOC

Bleu d'Auvergne is a blue cheese from the Cantal region of France, and has AOC status since 1975.

Milk from Salers cows is used to make this cheese, and the active ingredient is penicillium roqueforti which gives it deep blue veins running through. The cheeses are salted and aged in cellars for minimum 4 weeks.

This cheese is less salty than most blue cheeses and has a creamy, melt-in-the mouth texture. It is good for use in cooking such as in pasta sauces, or on a cheeseboard with a full bodied red wine (Chateauneuf Du Pape, St Emilion etc.)