Recipes are designed to feed four unless otherwise stated

Loin of Cod or Sandre au beurre blanc

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sandre au beurre blanc

Introduction

A culinary marriage from Poitou-Charentes. You'll find this in restaurants throughout Poitou-Charentes and the Western Loire. It is often referred to as simply "poisson au beurre blanc".

Sandre English: Pikeperch or Zander is a firm and fine white fish with a delicate flavour. Fine specimens up to 1.2m (4ft) long have been caught in the Thouet river just a two minute walk from our house and the fish is common in the rivers of Poitou-Charentes. In these days of dwindling fish stocks, it is nice to offer a recipe for a fish that is delicious, plentiful and thriving. You could substitute any firm white fish but my recommendation would be loin of cod (dos de cabillaud).

Beurre blanc English: White Butter is the sauce of the region. The butter of Poitou Charentes, the first to be granted an AOC, is a pale creamy butter with a high (82%) butterfat content. It is highly prized by chefs worldwide. The sauce is actually a warm emulsion and needs to be prepared and served immediately. If left to stand it will separate.

Perfectly Roasted Turkey

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Perfectly Roasted Turkey

Introduction

With Thanksgiving upon us, in the U.S., and the holidays only a month away I thought it timely to share some turkey roasting tips.

Now that turkey can be found all year round, in everything from "bacon" to sandwiches, escalopes and sausages, it's important to take some extra care so that the holiday bird still has an edge. Turkey's current popularity is due to its low fat content; low fat all too often means tasteless.

Sourcing a good turkey is essential. In the U.S. I have used Dartagnan who offer a wide variety of birds including wild turkey, it doesn't come in a bottle :)
In the UK The Ginger Pig is an excellent supplier. Most good supermarkets offer free range birds both fresh and frozen.

Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu

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Duck Ragu

Introduction

In the autumn and winter I like to use whatever meat is plentiful in my ragu. Wild rabbit and wild boar (with bitter chocolate) are particular favourites, lamb shanks can be fantastic, goose too.

I made this version with duck legs mostly drumsticks, but you can substitute any of the meats mentioned above. The secret is to use cuts of meat that require long slow cooking.

Wild or domestic duck are equally good, but the wild bird will take longer to cook.

Garganelli Pasta

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Garganelli

Introduction

Garganelli is a favourite of mine and gets requested often; I think of it as the richer forerunner of penne. Making pasta like this is a labour of love, so I keep it for special occasions.

Pasta like this holds sauces well and the imperfections of hand-made pasta offer a more sensuous texture.

This pasta combines well with any meat ragu.

Sweet Potato or Squash Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Sweet Potato or Squash Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Introduction

Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to celebrate but they can also be used to innovate in the kitchen. I am happy to be constrained by “traditional” ingredients as long as I am free to choose what to do with them.

The reason for scare quotes: traditional = old bad habit, constraint and enemy of innovation; I have little time for it.

I came up with this dish for a Thanksgiving dinner in Atlanta a couple of years ago. We had sent our guests a wide list of ingredients and asked them to choose the flavours that they most associated with Thanksgiving, celebration and autumn/fall. This dish, one of many small courses that we served, was a result of their choices.

I had wanted to do something with sweet potato that showed it in a different light. The dish is equally good with sweet potato or squash, but look for a Potimarron or Hokkaido squash, they are less moist which is essential.

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

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Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Introduction

This is a house speciality and one of the 'classic' variants that I mention in Spaghetti all Gricia. I tend to think of it as 'Gricia in a winter coat'.

Guanciale also known as pig's cheek bacon (guancia = cheek) is a subtle fatty meat with an un-rivalled flavour. It has started to turn up in good Italian delis, but I cure my own.

This dish is about about pasta and pork, so avoid the temptation to increase the other ingredients, you want to coat the pasta not drown it.

There is a debate as to whether this should be made with onion or garlic or a combination. I tend to use one or the other, am less happy with the result of using both. See suggestion.

Boeuf Bourguignon Nu or Beef Burgundy Redux

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Introduction

I have been cooking and refining this dish for years. The recipe is based upon one by Madame Germaine Carter whose 'Home Book of French Cookery' was a favourite in my teens, not only because of the recipes but also due to its narrative. Mme Carter and her co-authors were interned in a number of prisoner of war camps during World War II. During a winter of particular privation in 1941-42, a fellow prisoner suggested the book as a means to boost their flagging spirits. The book is long out of print, but copies are not hard to find.

I have included additional ingredients that you'll find in most 'authentic' recipes in the Suggestion section, but with the exception of the bread fried in bacon fat, I find them a distraction.

This dish is always better when made a day in advance.

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

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Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

Introduction

I have or thought I had a 'Zucca piena di Napoli' squash growing, a rare Italian variety with a beautiful blue-ish green hue. While I was away last week it turned a pale tan colour because it is actually butternut squash. No complaints butternut has an excellent flavour and is particularly good in risotto and soup.

I let the squash, the whopper pictured below which weighed 2.2kg (almost 5lbs), mature a day or two more on the vine and then let it sit for a couple of days once cut to allow it to dry a little. This concentrates the flavour.

Any firm autumn\winter squash will work. I am looking forward to experimenting with some of the varieties that we have planted in the kitchen garden; let's hope they don't all turn out to be butternut.

Porchetta or Rolled, Herb-Stuffed Pork Belly

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Porchetta ready to serve

Porchetta

Introduction

A favourite here in Misse, Porchetta is a rich dish and a little goes a long way.

Porchetta is a classic Italian pork roast. It has been recognised with a 'prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale' (traditional agricultural-alimentary product).

The original is made with a whole small pig, which has been gutted, de-boned, stuffed with herbs, garlic and wild fennel then spit roasted. It is commonly seen in this form in Butcher's shops and is bought by the slice. It can be eaten warm or cold.

Escalopes with Prosciutto or Dry-Cured Ham

Turkey Escalope with Dry-Cured Ham

Introduction

A dish rich in flavours but easy to prepare, I have been making this version for several years.

I like to use Turkey or chicken escalopes as they have a subtle flavour and absorb the other flavours used, but pork or veal will also work.

We were reading through Elizabeth David's 'Summer Cooking' yesterday, it was first published in 1955. It was surprising to discover that she had already started discussing the advantages of free-range poultry back then.

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