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)

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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.

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


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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!

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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………….

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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!!

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Play area and the smallest room in the house

It’s all non stop here with Chris, Louis and I working all hours to get the downstairs completed before clients arrive! We had some help with a workaway couple, Matt and Ellie, they did a lot of clearing and sorting for us, plus painting Louis’ fences.

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Louis’ play area has been defined, the pebbles moved up to the top terrace so that he can drive his tractor and fences up to make it safe and colourful. A slight cock-up on buying a cooker hood turned to our advantage!! Then the utility room, lobby and downstairs loo get walls, plastered, painted and floors in.

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La cuisine, la cuisine!

As ever I have been too busy working to write or take photos, however I am delighted to say after much ado we are in downstairs! The kitchen is open and we are all loving it. It isn’t finished of course but it is done enough to be comfortable, although I really would like the cupboard handles to arrive soon please as it is really hard to open the drawers without them!

If I say it myself we have done a good job. The house flows. More photos to follow…

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The Front Terrace

We have finally finished what Patrick started for us in the summer. The front terrace is complete, well almost as there are always little things to change and adjust.

After Patrick had brought up the levels on the right hand side of the terrace we sourced flat stones from our friend Yves vineyard then cemented and grouted them in.

We then started work on the lefthand side, firstly cleaning out the old petrol tank so that we can turn it into a well for rain water to water the plants. Not a nice job that but now that it is done we await the rain! We had to build up the sides of the well to take it up to floor level, this we did by using old bins to bring the height up and rubble to fill in the sides. All of this is unseen and took a lot less time than building the sides up in brick or stone.

We then sorted the levels for our very uneven floor and filled it with more rubble and then a layer of sand and cement. The finish wasn’t very attractive so we covered it with a thin screed of yellow sand and white cement to match the colour of the walls. It’s a tad orange right now but when it dries completely it will be the same colour as the walls, a pale sandy yellow. And today we finally received the correct ironmongery for the beautiful gate that Chris made, so we have hung it and it looks fab!

So at long last the front of the house, which has been such an eye sore is now looking good. Although I still want to re-render the front……


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