Radish Leaf Pesto

Spring is springing, well it is trying to at least! We go from shorts to jumpers within the day here at the moment! Sunday we were barbecuing on the beach, basking in the sunshine, then the following day, wrapping up in winter layers and lighting the fires! This jumping around of the temperature not only confuses us but the vegetables too that are trying hard to grow despite the stop/start weather!

That said this morning at the market we began to see some of the spring fruits and vegetables that I have been yearning for – asparagus, gariguette strawberries, new season spinach, fennel, artichokes, courgettes and radishes. The courgettes are perhaps still a little bitter, if we get plenty of sun I reckon they will have sweetened up by next week. However the rest was looking fresh and healthy.

Radishes here are plentiful and at this time of year, whilst there is plenty of rain and the soil is moist, the radishes are big, crunchy and juicy. Later on when it gets hotter and drier the radishes will be smaller and spicier. When buying radishes always look at the leaves too, try to choose a bunch that has fresh, green leaves as that way you can use them for making a very tasty pesto. If they have turned yellow, or are tired looking then they are only good for the compost bin!

I decant the pesto into several small pots and freeze them so that I always have plenty to hand. It can be used as a dip, to make up salad dressings, as a base for tarts or pizzas, for a quick and easy pasta supper, stirred into soups, with grilled fish or lamb chops!!


1 bunch of radish leaves, pick out any wilted/yellow leaves and discard

I large handful of fresh coriander

1 large handful of rocket

2 fresh garlic cloves

1 small spring onion

zest and juice of half a lemon

1 handful of whole almonds (skins on)

1 – 2 tbsp roughly chopped or grated pecorino cheese (to taste)

1 – 2 tbsp quality olive oil ( the best you have as it really makes a difference)

seasoning to taste


Wash thoroughly the radish leaves, they will probably be very gritty, and spin dry in a salad spinner along with the rocket and coriander leaves. Put into a food processor along with the garlic, spring onion, lemon zest and juice, almonds and cheese. Blitz for several minutes and then drizzle in the olive oil until you have a paste like consistency, roughly around 2 tablespoons, soap down and blitz again. Taste and adjust the seasoning, you probably won’t want any additional salt and depending on the bitterness of the leaves add more or less pecorino.

Alternatives: this is a very flexible pesto and can be adapted to whatever you have around and is in season, they key is to use the freshest of ingredients possible as any tiredness will be exaggerated.

The rocket can be omitted or replaced with young spinach leaves, in the summer replace the coriander with basil and mint. I happened to have some confit de citron so used a slice of that instead of a fresh lemon. Of course the almonds can be replaced with the more traditional pine nuts but they are not local to me here so are one hugely expensive and two I am very fearful of “dysgeusia” and what that might do to my palate and so tend to avoid them unless I am comfortable with the source!

Wine Match:

This is very herby, slightly bitter and packs a tangy punch so requires an aromatic wine with depth that won’t be fazed but equally won’t try and fight with all those flavours! I would try it with Mas Champart’s IGP Pays D’Oc from Saint Chinian. A delicious blend of Terret ( a local variety enjoying a come back!) and Grenache Gris, unctuous with a mineral freshness.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Duck Bastilla Pastilla

The fourth spice dish was a Moroccan/Middle Eastern based dish called Bastilla Pastilla, a filo pastry delight filled with duck confit, dried apricots and a mix of sweet and savoury spices. It was a challenging dish to partner due to that combination of sweet and savoury, in fact I confess to omitting the sprinkling of icing sugar at the end as I felt that would be a step too far for the wine!

So here is my adaptation of a Bastilla Pastilla, and whilst it might not be 100% authentic it was 100% enjoyed!!

Makes approximately 55 small ( 2 bite-sized) parcels


450g duck confit

2 large yellow onions, sliced finely

large pinch of saffron

2 packs of filo pastry ( I used 2/3rds of the second pack)

3 large garlic cloves crushed

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

200g dried apricots roughly chopped

1 heaped tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsps, plus 150 – 200g butter melted

2 tsp grated ginger

2 eggs, beaten

zest and juice of a large lemon

sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

large pinch of dried chilli flakes

2 – 3 tbsp sumac

2 handfuls each of fresh chopped parsley and coriander

sesame seeds


Put the onions, garlic, saffron, apricots, ginger, chilli, saffron, sugar, 2 tbsp of butter, vinegar and seasoning in a pan with a lid, cook on a gentle heat for 15 minutes until softened. Stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Once cool transfer into a large mixing bowl with the flaked duck confit, lemon zest and juice, eggs and 1 handful of fresh herbs. Mix really well to ensure everything is thoroughly combined.

Prepare your work surface for the filo pastry. Dampen two clean tea towels, use one to work on and the other to wrap the rest of the filo pastry that you are not currently using. Prepare two large baking sheets with greaseproof paper ready to reception the Bastilla Pastilla. Have a sharp knife to hand, the melted butter and a pastry brush. The sumac and fresh herbs ready to sprinkle.

Carefully take a sheet of filo pastry and lay onto your dampened work towel, ensure that you wrap the rest of the filo immediately in the other damp towel to prevent it from drying out. Brush the sheet with butter and sprinkle over some sumac and the herbs, cover with another sheet of filo, pressing down so that they stick together, you may need to brush some extra butter on to ensure a good seal. Using a sharp knife cut the sheets into four lengths. Place a heaped teaspoon of duck mixture onto the top righthand corner, and fold into triangles brushing lightly with melted butter as you go. Finish up with a light brush of butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds, place on the baking tray. Continue until you have used up all of the mixture. Depending on the size of the triangles that you make, you should make between 50 and 60 Bastilla.

Pop into a preheated oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, check after 15, they should be a golden brown. Serve warm, sprinkled with sumac and fresh herbs. These can be frozen and reheated in a hot oven to crisp up.

Wine match:

The combination of rich duck, sweet and hot spices calls for a red wine with good fruit, acidity and a herby punch. I chose a wine from Domaine de la Rectorie in the Roussillon, L’Orientale. A grenache based wine that has beautiful soft fruit, crunchy acidity and a herbal finish. The combination was very flattering and after the fiery heat of the Jerk, the rich sweetness of the Bastilla and the wine was very welcome!

(photo courtesy of: photo O. Bac – l’Atelier des Vignerons)


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jamaican Jerk Turk!

Now the third dish that I served for the Wine and Spice Tasting at the Atelier des Vignerons took several tasters by surprise, it was, if I am honest, a little explosive!! So you have been warned if you don’t like the heat reduce the allspice and chilli, if you do, follow the recipe as it is! It is very much a matter of taste as both my husband (English) and the workawayer that was helping me, (Audrey from the USA), loved it and the kick!

I based my recipe on the Food and Wine magazine Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe, however one of the key changes that I made was the protein, hence the name! Instead of using chicken I went for turkey, firstly because I am lucky enough to live near a really good supplier of both regional and high quality products all produced within the Aude, the Comptoir des Producteurs in Lezignan. They have a great local farm that breeds turkey (unusual for France) and at a good price, which meant even with a small budget I could stick to my high standards of quality produce rather than being forced to buy cheap, battery farmed chicken due to budget constraints. This change of meat was actually no bad thing as turkey is a darker meat and worked better than the chicken did, as the richer meat stood up to the bold flavours. I also needed the meat to be off the bone for ease and mess purposes at a stand-up tasting, but at home you could use high welfare chicken thighs which would work equally well, just provide finger bowls!!

35 x 2 piece skewers


1.250kg of boneless turkey ( I bought a rolled turkey roast, see above to replace with chicken thighs if you prefer)

1 large roughly chopped onion

4 large spring onions, roughly chopped, including green parts

2 habenero chillies – mmm maybe just go for the one they were very hot!!

4 large garlic cloves

1 heaped tablespoon of Chinese 5 spice powder

1.5 tablespoons of Jamaican Allspice berries roughly ground in a pestle and mortar (you have been warned!)

1 heaped tablespoon of coarsely ground black peppercorns

3 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp of sea salt

200ml soy sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

Squeeze of fresh lime


If you are making skewers chop your turkey into bite size pieces, roughly 2cm long. If you are using a whole chicken, spatchcock it, thighs can be left as they are. Put the meat aside. In a food processor add all the ingredients except the turkey, soy sauce and olive oil. Process until a coarse paste is formed. Whilst running the food processor on slow add the soy sauce and oil in a slow and steady stream until the marinade is throughly combined. Transfer the meat and the marinade to a Tupperware with a lid and ensure that the meat is completely coated in the marinade. Pop the lid on and leave the flavours to evolve overnight, (this can be made two days in advance if using very fresh meat).

Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature before cooking. Because I was doing such a large quantity of small skewers I cooked mine on a hot plancha inside, it created a lot of smoke so best to open all windows and doors! If you are using larger pieces of meat or bigger skewers, cook on a wood fired barbecue to get an authentic charred flavour. The small pieces of turkey only took 3 – 4 minutes on a very hot griddle, good quality meat does not need to be overcooked and remember the meat will continue to cook in its own heat when removed from the pan.

To serve at the tasting I waited for the meat to cool and then thread two pieces onto a cocktail skewer. If you were going to cook these on a barbecue using wooden skewers remember to soak them in water first so that they don’t catch fire! I then served them warm with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

I found I had roughly 4 tbsp of the marinade left over so I used it to marinade a whole chicken which I spatchcocked and cooked on the barbecue that weekend. Delicious!

Wine match:

Now the Jamaicans would most likely enjoy a Red Stripe beer or a rum cocktail with this but I am a wine lecturer and the point of the evening was to match spicy food with different Languedoc-Roussillon wines, so no rum punch for me! It is a challenge to find the perfect match for such bold flavours and fiery heat. Firstly what doesn’t work; red wines were not going to be my jerks friend here the tannins would be too astringent with such heat and oak would turn bitter in the face of such spice. A full flavoured rosé wine with some residual sugar could have worked but it was early March and it was raining and cold, so not really rosé weather! So white it was and this time I turned to a classic white variety for pairing with spicy food, however one that I usually don’t rave about as it tends to lack the acidity required, Gewürztraminer! This one heralds from the Limoux hills in the village of Cépie, the Domaine Bégude Secret de Sud. This organic English owned domaine, (opposite Rives-Blanques, the domaine that produced the Chenin blanc which I partnered with the fishcakes), was the first to produce a Gewürztraminer in the region. Thanks to the high altitude and cool nights it retains a vibrant freshness. With plenty of perfumed spice and floral character on the nose and a slight off-dry character to calm the heat. Due to its pungency I find that this is a variety that always divides opinion, and this tasting was no exception!

(photo courtesy of – photo O. Bac – l’Atelier des Vignerons)
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Aloo Tikki: spiced potato cakes/galettes de pomme de terre Indienne

This is a recipe that I adapted from Hari Ghotra, a fantastic website for authentic and modern Indian food. The aim here was to show the difference between Thai and Indian flavours, the former being aromatic and fresh and the latter being warm and earthy.

These delicious little cakes are very easy to make and can be warmed in the oven and served either with a fresh mint and cucumber raita or/and a spicy, sweet and sour tomato chutney.

Makes 60+


2.2kg of potatoes (I used the Mona Lisa variety)

2 large spring onions finely chopped, greens as well

3 tsp garam masala

1 heaped tsp sea salt

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 heaped tbsp fresh grated ginger

2 large handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

vegetable oil for frying


First cook the potatoes, rinse and boil until tender in their skins (cooking potatoes with their skin gives the potato a different taste and texture, slightly astringent). Drain and leave to cool thoroughly. Once completely cool peel the potatoes, you can do this easily with your fingers, no tools required! Then coarsely grate the potatoes into a large mixing bowl add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly with your hands. Prepare the aloo tiki by getting a large bowl of cold water to rinse your hands in and one or two baking sheets to place them on when formed. Shape the cakes into flat patties around 3 – 4cm wide and 3cm deep. You can make these up to two days in advance to this stage, just cover and keep in the fridge.

To cook heat a large, heavy bottomed saucepan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil once the oil is hot place the tikki into the pan and fry on each side until crisp and golden, this takes roughly 4 – 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan otherwise they will fall apart. You will need to add oil as you go and I found that bits of potato stuck to the pan and so before I  added more oil or tikki I scraped the pan clean to remove any stray bits so that the next batch didn’t pick up any burnt flavours. Once cooked drain on some kitchen roll and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Wine Match:

I served these with the Allegro 2016 from Domaine Ollier Taillefer . A superb wine made from Vermentino (Rolle) and Rousanne in the hills of Faugères. An organic domaine run by brother and sister Luc and Françoise Ollier, 25 ha in the village of Fos high up (450m) in the small, but high quality appellation of Faugères. A rich, ‘gourmand’ style of wine that fills the mouth. It’s savoury and warming character enhanced the warming flavours of cumin, garam and ginger.



(photos courtesy of – photo O. Bac – l’Atelier des Vignerons)


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boulottes de Poisson/Thai Fishcakes

This is an adaptation from a fantastic Thai chef called Pai, (Pailin “Pai” Chongchitnant. She very kindly gave me advice on how to tweak her recipe so that it would work for the tasting at L’Atelier des Vignerons’ Wine and Spice Tasting that I held last Friday.

I had two issues to contend with, firstly the cost of doing 100% prawns in France for a tasting that was only 15€ a head was going to be prohibitively expensive. Secondly the only heating facilities I had was an electric hot plate which at best would get things tiède/warm!

So below is my version of Pai’s Shrimp Cakes.

Makes roughly 46 balls the size of a Reine Claude plum!


600g firm white fish, I used Julienne (blue ling) make sure to remove any bones

300g prawns (if using frozen these need to be thoroughly defrosted and dried, I found that this reduced the weight to 285g)

2 eggs

6 tbsp Red Curry Paste ( I made my own, recipe below, alternatively you can buy pre-made)

1 tin coconut milk

9 kaffir limes leaves (if you can find fresh remove the vein and cut into a fine julienne, I used dried and removed the vein then pounded to a powder in a pestle and mortar)

175g very finely chopped green beans (into a pea like size)

2 – 3tbsp fish sauce ( start with 2 then taste and adjust accordingly)

2 tsp fine white sugar

roughly 3 mugs worth of very fine breadcrumbs and fine polenta mixed

vegetable oil for deep frying

Dipping Sauce:

125ml white vinegar – rice or white wine

115g white sugar

1 small red chili (I used a red habenero chili, it was explosively hot!!)

2 large cloves of garlic

pickled ginger chopped with juice to taste

soy sauce to taste

1/2 lime

1 small handful of fresh coriander

1 small handful of dry roasted peanuts


First reduce the coconut milk, pour into a wide pan and bring to the boil then reduce and simmer until thickened. Add the curry paste, stir and continue to reduce until all the liquid has evaporated. I found that this took a good 15 – 20 minutes as I was making a much larger quantity than Pai. Put to the side and cool completely.

This is a good time to make the dipping sauce. In a pestle and mortar pound together the garlic and ginger and add to a pan with the sugar and vinegar. Cook over a medium heat until thickened, roughly 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, it will continue to thicken. Then adjust to taste with soy sauce, ginger, fresh lime juice, coriander and peanuts.

Back to the fishcakes. In a large bowl add the cooled paste, kaffir leaves, fish paste, beans and sugar. Mix well. In a food processor add the fish, cut into rough cubes, be sure to remove any bones, the defrosted and dried prawns and eggs. Blitz until fine. Add to the other ingredients and thoroughly mix, I found this best done with a bendy spatula. I then heated a small amount of vegetable oil in a frying pan and fried a teaspoons worth of the mix to gauge the chilli and seasoning content. Adjust if necessary, adding more fish sauce and curry paste. Put into the fridge to cool and firm up whilst you prepare your work surface for making the balls and frying.

In a wide bowl mix the breadcrumbs and polenta (Pai, like most chefs, recommends Panko breadcrumbs, however whilst I understand the reasoning for these crumbs I have always found it crazy to pay for breadcrumbs when, especially in France, we normally always have left over bread somewhere! However you do need to make sure it is very fine, and to get that crunchy texture of Panko I mix with some fine semoule/polenta as well). Prepare another bowl with cold water for rinsing your hands as you go as this is messy work! If you want to cook this straight away then you will need to also prepare your frying equipment, deep fat fryer with vegetable oil (at least 2.5cm deep), kitchen towels to drain them on, and a platter to serve. However I made mine a day ahead as this was just one of five dishes that I was making, and found that a night in the fridge helped firm them up which ensured that they kept their shape when frying. So in that case prepare two baking trays with baking parchment to place the balls onto.

Now the fun part!! Put your oven onto warm. Then wet your clean hands, take a dessert spoon worth of fish mixture, gently form into a ball shape and drop into the crumbs. Do four or five at a time, then cover the balls with the crumbs. You will find that the ball shape is much easier to achieve when covered in breadcrumbs. Pop onto the baking sheet if chilling first, cover and refrigerate. To deep fry, heat the oil to 180°C or until a piece of bread rises sizzling to the top when dropped in. Depending on the size of your pan fry five or six at a time, don’t over crowd as you want to be able to turn them easily. They are ready when a nice golden colour. Pop into the warmed oven whilst you continue with the rest until they are all cooked. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Wine Match:

Château Rives Blanques Dédicace Chenin Blanc 2016

  • a beautifully crisp white wine from the Limoux hills of Cépie. Showing notes of green apple and citrus fruits. The aromatic profile of the wine perfectly partnered the aromatic spices of the Thai fish cakes.
  • http://www.rives-blanques.com/fr/

Red Curry Paste:


  • 4 medium-strong red chiles
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 10 – 15 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander (stalks)
  • 3 fresh sliced lemongrass sticks
  • 2 red shallots
  • 1 tablespoon sliced ginger
  • 1/2 the peel of 1 kaffir lime (I used the zest of a fresh lime)
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce


If you are using dry red chilies soak these first in hot water, for fresh chilies chop roughly. Depending on the heat that you are after you can remove or include the pith and seeds! Put all of the ingredients into a small food processor and blitz until a smooth paste. If you are feeling traditional, you can pound by hand using a pestle and mortar, I confess I didn’t!! Because I used fresh chilies I found that my paste was not as “red” coloured as the bought stuff, but the taste was definitely superior. Any extra keeps in the fridge for three weeks.


Photos courtesy of photo O. Bac – l’Atelier des Vignerons



Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Le Fin, enfin!

So at long last, six and half years after we first started I can say that we have arrived at the end!!! Now obviously with a house this size and age we will never really completely finish as there will always be projects and things to tweak! However the house is done and now, thanks to the super hard working Anna, the garden is also done!

We started this project in February 2011, we took it on with heaps of enthusiasm, very little building knowledge and a ridiculously small budget! It has, to say the least, been challenging! At times it has consumed us, without a doubt it has consumed very single penny that we had, made, begged and borrowed! We have worked non stop, in the most difficult of circumstances at times, pushing us to our limits. However we have grown as a couple and as individuals. We have both learnt an incredible variety of skills, some we have mastered better than others! If I had the money I would pay for a plasterer, and Chris would love to never deal with the ‘bloody plumbing’ again!!

We have had an enormous amount of help from so many people! Experts that have been generous with their time and knowledge explaining how to do certain things; architects, builders, plasterers, plumbers and electricians to name but a few. Friends and family that have come over to have a “working holiday” and thrown themselves in wholeheartedly to our crazy project! The Workaway system that has enabled us to not only accomplish so much but to have met so many fantastic people from across the globe! I have cooked umpteen meals for tired and hungry workers, we have housed hundreds of different people. All whilst building two businesses and making and raising our son Louis!

I daren’t list all the people that we want to thank for fear of missing someone out! But we do say thanks to you all and at some point aim to throw a big party to celebrate and you will all be invited!!

So here are some photos of the before, during and after!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is of course still a treehouse to build, a slide and a proper pool, plus the remise to convert!! So any of you looking to return to Coustouge………….

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Flowers or no flowers!

We have been working like crazy to get the downstairs fit for business usage. It is amazing how long the ‘finitions’ can take; skirting boards, door liners, architrave, doors, etc. We are advancing and I am getting great pleasure from the lobby, downstairs loo and utility room!!! I think it is the fact that these small areas always seemed so far away, and relatively unnecessary, that they give me such satisfaction.

However they are not finished, we are still awaiting half the toilet! Incredibly the online company that I bought the toilet from sent me half a toilet and when I chased it instead of sending me the other half they sent me a table!! Very random and very annoying as I now have to wait for them to collect the table and for it to be sent back to head quarters before they will send me the other half of the toilet that I have paid for!!! Customer service at its best, heh!

Anyhow Chris hasn’t had the time to make a door for the loo yet so it would be a bit awkward to use! However we do have doors for the utility room and for the workshop, and it is here that I am in a quandary. The workshop door was the door from the pink flowery room upstairs, the one where they had papered the walls, the ceiling, inside the cupboards and the light fitting! Completely mad and it drove me mad trying to get the darn stuff off. Anyhow four years later I have a sentimentality towards it that Chris doesn’t seem to share. So the lobby is painted in this elegant grey colour, however I have left the pink flowers on the door as a wink to the past.

Answers on a postcard, should I leave the flowers or paint over them??

The last photo is from the original bedroom!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment