Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A week in the kitchen

IMG_2721Many mornings I find Gustav standing in the kitchen, hands tucked into his hoodie pockets, announcing that he’s cold and hungry. Well as Lorraine Kelly said recently on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, if you’ve been affected by any of the issues presented in the show so far, go to www.boohoohoo.com

This morning I did rectify matters by extending the breakfast menu with a platter of corn fritters. The particular recipe I used called for grated zucchini but those have all disappeared into the last pot of ratatouille, so I diced some red capsicums instead. That’s a simple enough substitution but I’m finding that I often have to make last minute adaptations to recipes either because I forgot something at the shops, or I simple can’t find it locally. For more workaday ingredients, I’m finding the ingredient substitution table at Joy of Baking to be quite handy for such things as self-raising flour, or buttermilk.
Yesterday I found mustard seeds after looking in four different supermarkets in recent weeks, none of which had moutard en graines or en poudre. At the weekly outdoor market in Lectoure on Friday I finally found someone who sold flaxseed (graines de lin) and another with sun-dried tomatoes. The latter are usually found only in small, expensive jars, so getting a big bag for €7 was a huge win. I have also looked high and low for sweet chilli sauce – even in one of the airport-sized hypermarchés in Toulouse – but didn’t turn up any until a week ago, noting that it had no French labelling – it was originally bound for English/Dutch/German customers. I think I’ll make my own!

Pisse-dru "thick piss" While I was sniffing out mustard powder in the Lectoure Intermarché I chanced on this rack of new beaujolais with a rather unusual label “Pisse-dru”, apparently French slang for “thick piss”!
Roast lamb shoulder with lavenderLast week’s first culinary experiment was lavender lamb. I spotted an article about using lavender instead of rosemary when roasting a shoulder and was immediately intrigued. The only time I remember having lavender in food was a crème brûlée back in Sydney.

The recipes generally call for the flowering stalks, but it’s too late in the year for those so impatient me had to settle for the leafy branches. I looked up a number of sites with lavender recipes – all of which said the leaves could be used, but none said exactly how – so I simply fell back to using them like rosemary. The end result was interesting but on balance I prefer the rosemary. Maybe I’ll try again when I have some flowers to work with.

biscotti loaves, fresh from ovenMucnson, pistachio catcherAfter my biscotti success, I made a larger batch. I divided the ingredients so that the larger portion would be strictly by the recipe, while the remainder substituted fleur d’orange essence  for lemon zest. I tell you that shelling and skinning the pistachios gets boring pretty quickly. Munson cunningly placed himself on the kitchen floor, so that every time a pistachio kernel flew out of my hands, he was there to catch it.  

The fleur d’orange batch went into a longer thinner dish, producing a very flat loaf. Both smelled wonderful when they emerged from the oven, but I found that when I toasted the slices later, most of the orange scent was driven out.

biscotti, sliced for toasting  biscotti loaves, interior

The thinner biscotti fingers are good for coffee-dunking!


On a trip to IKEA last week, Gustav bought a couple of boxes of spiced biscuits. He told me that a Swedish tradition (like standing in the kitchen and saying you’re cold and hungry) is to put one of these flat on your palm and press into the centre with your finger. If it cracks into three portions then it’s considered lucky and you can make a wish. Above is my first time effort. Munson is the one who thinks he’s going to get lucky.

Actually Gustav has been busy in the kitchen, and recently introduced me to a dish called Flygande Jacob / Flying Jacob, which is a chicken casserole made with bacon, bananas and peanuts. The dish was created in the 70s by a Swedish air-freight pilot who was inspired by carbonara sauce, but had to substitute ingredients with what he had to hand. I found a useful video which illustrates the practice of Swedish cooking as I’ve come to know:


  1. If Gustav is cold and hungry in the south of France, then I would say he is quite lucky not to be in Malmö right now!

    The biscotti look great!

  2. I'll be in Sweden for 2 weeks in January, that will certainly refresh my memory of how real cold feels like.

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