Truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes - Eliza Acton

Pertelote is learning to be an Eastender... [more]
Library Thing link
[Mostly food]
Chocolate & Zucchini
Cook sister!
Leite's Culinaria
Becks & Posh
The Passionate Cook
Jill Dupleix
[Mostly not food]
Petite Anglaise
C @ Advogato
Language Log
My photos on flickr
Persephone Books
Copine de Geek
November 2006
September/October 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
October/November 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
October 2003
September 2003
July/August 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002

Sunday 7th January

buche de noel macaron

Unless this is your very first visit (welcome!), you hardly need me to tell you what my New Year's Resolutions are. More frequent posting, basically. There is a wedding to arrange, however, and before that a bit of a monster work project, so I warn you now: if it all goes quiet, I haven't fallen off edge of the internet, I'll be back shortly. And that is the last apology/explanation I shall make this year: lapsed blogs may be boring but 'OMG I haven't posted for weeks but I've been sooooooo busy' is more boring still.

A quick recap of Christmas should get the year off to a good start. I would thoroughly recommend the experience if I could only pinpoint what it was that made it so good - Christmas in France seemed like a perfect combination, but then I am a sucker for both... and after the usual UK xmas overhype and an unusually busy few weeks at work I concede that leaving the country (by train and therefore unimpeded by fog) would have seemed like a blessed idea wherever we were going.

I can't, however, think of many ways I'd rather spend Christmas Eve than queuing outside Pierre Hermé. (Not queuing, you say? But they brought us chocolates on silver trays! There's a civilised atmosphere to queues for food that you just don't find in, say, toy shops at that time of year.) My reward was one of the few remaining Carrement de Chocolat Buches de Noel (biscuit moelleux chocolat, crème onctueuse au chocolat, mousse au chocolat, croustillant au chocolat, fines feuilles de chocolat craquant). As if that wasn't decadence enough, I also came away with a small bag of Christmas-special macaroons: chocolate and foie gras. These were deep raspberry red with silver leaf, more beautiful than my photography can adequately convey, and fascinating to eat: the foie gras was not mixed into the chocolate ganache, but sandwiched with it, so that some bites were distinctly more savoury than others. The macaroon itself was not particularly sweet (though I don't think you could make them without a certain amount of sugar) so the overall impression was of richness. In fact because foie gras is nearly almost served with something sweet - from Sauternes to chutney - pairing it with chocolate is strange precisely because the flavours are not miles apart. A very interesting experiment. There was a smashing old lady on Desert Island Discs this morning who used 'salt with chocolate' as a metaphor for discord, but as our respective presents also included marmite-flavoured chocolates and salted caramels, this is clearly the year when salt goes mainstream...


Saturday 23rd December

Aaaaaaaand... relax. Oh my, what a month. But deadlines have been met, packages dispatched, and I can look up from my desk to find that gosh, Christmas is here. Later today I'm off to Paris for Christmas en famille - and if that wasn't enough to make you green with envy, I thought I'd leave you with the menu from our recent trip to Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons. This was a long-planned celebratory trip courtesy of The Doctors; my first truly starry experience (in the Michelin sense) and oh, what a place to start. It was extraordinary. The food was wonderful, of course; but the service was a revelation. Suddenly a lot of things about the capitalist economy made a lot more sense. We were having the Menu Découverte, and it went like this:

Champagne and canapés
Including the loveliest piece of tuna sashimi with ginger and sesame seeds.

Cornish crab, mango purée; grapefruit jelly
A tiny cup of white crab meat with sharp, bouche-amusing fruit flavours

Confit of Landais foie gras, quince, aged balsamic vinegar jelly; toasted sour dough bread
Well, I love foie gras. What's to say? Perfectly presented, gorgeous accompaniments.

Ceviche of Scottish sea scallop and tuna, shaved fennel and ginger salad; lime dressing
Another bright, fresh fish course. The lime dressing meant both juice, over the crunchy salad, and also finely ground zest around the rim of the dish. There was caviare, too.

Free-range Ambroise Farm hen egg, watercress, fresh walnuts
The iron flavour of the wilted watercress was a fantastic contrast to the rich soft boiled egg: a feat of culinary dexterity, as it had been shelled and split leaving the runny yolk whole - hard to describe but very impressive. There was bacon, too. Yummy.

Poached fillet of Cornish brill, Cancale 'Tsarskaya' oyster, wasabi and cucumber
Perhaps the most surprisingly good: oysters and cucumbers are, after all, two of the last things I would choose to eat warm. A thin, frothy wasabi sauce.

Char-grilled Wagyu beef rump, wild mushrooms, celeriac purée; pickled beetroot.
More conventional: 'just' a perfect example of a classic. Wagyu beef is as good as they say.

Cheese course
We were asked both whether and when we wanted cheese - our individual choice from a trolley, of course. Some of the hards were looking slightly end-of-the-night-ish, but the vacherin was superb.

'Kaffir' lime leaf and coconut tapioca, passion fruit and banana sorbet
After the beef and cheese, this was like a breath of fresh air.

Tiramisu flavours, cocoa sauce and coffee bean ice-cream
In other words, a deconstruction: a soft, boozy chocolate sponge with mascarpone, ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Valrhona 'Araguani 72%' chocolate mousse, lemon butterscotch sauce and almond milk crème glacée
The mousse was in a rolled up tuille. By this point (did I mention we'd been drinking wines matched to each course by the sommelier?) I was unqualified to tell the difference between crème glacée and ice cream. It was light, though, and with the lemony sauce made you realise how much care had gone into thinking how to ensure the tenth course was as enjoyable as the first.

And then we had coffee and petit fours; and a tour of the kitchen.


Wednesday 6th December


One of the very best things, of course, about keeping your food journal online rather than in camera, is that you get invited to meet other people doing the same. The latest in a lovely lucky streak of London foodblogger meetings was the Annual Christmas Cookie Swap at the home of the Passionate Cook. We gathered, we ate fondue and raclette (oooo, melted cheese! Is there anything more comforting and sociable?), we admired (and photographed) each other's cookies, and then we let the afternoon drift into evening while we sat cosily around with tea and mulled wine, and plates piled high with sweet, spicy baked goods. There was nothing tinselly about it, but it certainly felt like the beginning of the festivities. We were seven:


Monday 4th December

Being the unwitting participant in one of Food Blog S'cool's little contretemps last week has set me to thinking once again about the function of my blog. (Not anyone else's. Mine.) What follows is historical musing, rather than defensive snarl, I hope. I certainly don't feel snarly.

When I started Pertelote I wasn't immersed in the world of foodblogs the way I am now - because I hadn't seen any. They existed, but I hadn't done much (any) research; after all, I was just playing. I knew about blogs, and I thought the best ones were the most focused (my social circle at the time meant that the focus I saw most often was on free software); the others were mostly either boringly serious or terrifyingly over-revelatory. I'd been reading about food journals, so I put two and two together and reinvented the wheel. The only audience I was thinking of at that stage was my friends - or that subsection of them who thought it perfectly normal to communicate mainly via the internet. I cook for people, they ask me for recipes: on Planet Geek, a response consisting of a URL is elegantly sufficient, rather than rude or weird.

Since then I've several times been plunged into self-doubt as other foodblogs took the idea and ran with it, and I know full well that if I came to it now I'd never dare start. But as I'm here and still enjoying myself, I'm not going to let the glossiness of the competition put me off: I think there's a small corner for me, just as there's room on my bookshelf for Elizabeth David as well as Nigel Slater. Maybe one day I'll find the time and energy to teach myself the necessary coding for comments (but I won't be switching to a template. Come on, I've got this far without.) Yes, I check my stats, but my reaction is more often 'good grief, five people read that?' than 'must do better'. Sometimes all I'm doing here is what I started out to do: recording, primarily for my own benefit - not that I'm not delighted if you happen to be interested, but it's cherry, not cake.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I can get to the point! I want to make a note of some Gordon Ramsay recipes I used this weekend, for pitta crisps with two dips. The roasted pepper hoummos was not a particular success, though I'd blame the quality of my peppers or the power of my grill before daring to criticise the Scary One's recipe. The courgette and walnut dip, on the other hand, was delicious and foolproof. Those famously good-natured gentlemen, Mr Ramsay and Mr Murdoch, will forgive me if I reproduce it here:

two courgettes, grated
clove of garlic, finely chopped
200g greek yoghurt (less than GR says, but I liked it more spoonable than dippable)
squeeze of lemon juice
50g walnut halves, toasted and finely chopped
handful of mint and dill, chopped

Fry the grated courgettes in olive oil and a little salt. Add the garlic and stir over a high heat for a few minutes until any liquid released has been cooked off. Drain the courgettes in a colander set over a bowl for a few minutes, and leave to cool. When cold, mix the courgettes, yoghurt and lemon juice together in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the walnuts and herbs.