Icelandic gourmet fares

Four days in Iceland were not nearly long enough to discover all the fine foods grown , raised or fished  locally. The island is a gourmet’s paradise providing  staples of very high quality and most unusual choices for the daring connaisseur. Here are samples of the traditional dishes that we ordered in different restaurants.

Lightly smoked free range chicken dark and white meat

Icelandic lobster or langoustine

Ratatouille at Restaurant Laekjarbrekka

Icelandic lobster bisque

Vegetarian selection


Venison and reindeer

Lamb and Icelandic lobster Surf & Turf

Smoked lamb sandwich on rye flat bread at Hotel Anna

Rúgbrauð is a flat rye bread, dark and dense, usually rather sweet, traditionally baked in a pot or steamed, in special wooden casks, by burying it in the ground near a hot spring.

Marinated Atlantic scallop

Arctic char and langoustine ravioli

Horse carpaccio with Horseradish sauce at Laekjarbrekka

Terrine of lamb neck in jelly at Laekjarbrekka

Icelandic Skyr with white chocolate mousse and blueberry sherbet at Laekjarbrekka

Laekjarbrekka is a very good restaurant in the center of Reykjavik. It was built as a home in 1834 and only recently became a restaurant. We enjoyed every course and the  young waiters did all they could to answer all my difficult questions. It was not expensive by Icelandic standard considering the quality of the food, the large servings, the original setting.

Restaurant Laekjarbrekka downtown Reykjavik

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Unusual duty-free items at Keflavik airport in Iceland

I had a quick connection in Keflavik, Reykjavik’s airport in Iceland on the way home from France. It is a very spacious and pleasant airport with bright halls and many shops. The variety is incredible and the offering quite surprising! Of course, they have the usual tourist  stuff and many aisles of spirits including Icelandic Vodka made with glacier water, Icelandic beers also made with glacier water (not a rare commodity on the island), but also the biggest candy section ever, and many fridges full of  local smoked salmon and lox. That is to be expected. What I did not expect were the shelves of  dry seaweed packages  (yes, kelp!) and dry fish and also a freezer full of lamb: cutlets, legs, racks, full sides and also several sorts of marinated cuts, just there in case. Icelandic lamb is very high quality and definitely a premium export. Too bad the Canadian Customs has a different idea.

Dry fish

Dry Seaweed

Atlantic KOMBU is a fat free, cholesterol free food, rich in dietary and soluble fiber, iodine, magnesium, potassium and calcium.  Iceland’s Atlantic Kombu grows wild and is harvested by hand from pure Icelandic waters. They dry it using renewable geothermal energy to bring you the highest quality food source with a low carbon footprint. Atlantic kombu is similar to Japanese kombu, and is also known as oarweed, tangle and fingered kelp. In Icelandic, it is called hrossaþari.

Kombu is very useful as a seasoning for soups, stews, sauces and vegetable dishes. For best cooking results, soak the kombu in water for 10 minutes and simmer in dishes for 40 minutes. You also can try adding a few strips of kombu to bean dishes to speed up cooking time, so says the packaging company!

Marinated legs of lamb

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Soupe au pistou

This is the recipe from Bistrot le Paradou in the village of Paradou near Fontvieille in Provence. They shared the ingredients but did not give any details on the how to, so I am going to give some explanations based on local knowledge. The  thick hearty soup is served piping hot.

  • 800 gr Coco blancs beans shelled
  • 600 gr Coco rouges beans shelled
  • 400 gr green beans
  • 400 gr zuchini
  • 400 gr peeled potatoes
  • Half a head garlic
  • 1/2 bunch basil
  • 1 large tin can  crushed tomatoes

With the list above from the kitchen of Bistrot Paradou, I guess that you boil the coco beans in  about 3 liters of water for an hour. Strain and remove the loose skins. In new water,  add the beans, the diced potatoes, the diced zucchini, the green beans, and start boiling. Crush the tomatoes with the garlic and some olive oil to form a paste and add to the soup 10 minutes before all the vegetables are cooked. Sprinkle with olive oil, the basil and grated Gruyère after serving.

Notes: Fresh tomatoes can replace the can, in this case plunge them in boiling water first to remove the skins.

Many recipes include celery and or leeks and some a handful of small elbow pasta.



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Bistrot Le Paradou in Provence

This  Provençal bistrot is the the best find. I noticed it on approach to Fontvieille, a small town near the Roman town of Arles, where my dad spends his holiday in August. I thought I should make it a point to go back  to Le Paradou, as it had a look that caught my eye, as a good place to have a local fare without the tourist twist. Coincidently, my Dad and Danièle had planned to take us there for dinner that night, which was great because you need to reserve at least a week in advance, and they had secured reservations for Friday or so they thought! The irony is that there was a terrible miscommunication and when we arrived the patron, Jean-louis, and his associate turned white as we were in the book for Saturday  instead and the place was booked solid as usual. There was only one solution:  they asked if we would be all right taking “the table du capitaine” which meant eating at a single table away from the dining room, but right in front of the pass (counter between the kitchen and the diningroom) in full view of the kitchen. My father agreed thank God, and I could not believe my luck! This table du capitaine is normally reserved for hollywood stars and politicians…but today by accident it went to the cooking frog!

In Le Paradou, near Fontvieille and Arles in Provence

Below is the menu for that day, there is only one menu, it changes every day, it includes wines, coffee, cheese, dessert, an appetizer and an entrée, all for 50 Euros  tax and service compris.

  • Provence white wine  under the platanes trees
  • Soupe au pistou (recipe in my next post)
  • Local lamb rack with ratatouille or purée or both and artichaut barigoule
  • Cheese tray
  • Tarte aux poires or Baba au rhum or crème brulée or berries, mille-feuilles…
  • café

The lamb was very young, cooked to perfection and very tender,with an amazing taste. The service was perfect and of course, looking straight into the kitchen and watching the meticulous chef ( a woman by the way) carve rack after rack of pink lamb was quite a show. Mireille Pons is a remarkable woman.

Call to reserve at 04 90 54 32 70, worth the trip to Provence from anywhere!

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Brandade de saumon

This would normally have been made with salt cod, but we have overfished, alas, and there is hardly any cod left. I feel that we should not eat anymore for now, and decided to make brandade with another plentiful fish, salmon. The result will be very different but very good and  not your typical salmon recipe.  

The wild salmon are plentiful right now on the West Coast and I have a fresh pink today. Not the most sought after species, but it will work well for brandade  and it is certainly not expensive.  

First, boil 2 peeled potatoes suitable to mash in cold salted water with 1/4 of a chopped onion, 1/4 of a bayleaf and thyme. Drain. Boil  200 gr salmon about 4 minutes.  


Crushing, grinding the fish with the olive oil and milk


With a mortar and pestle, crush 2 degermed cloves of garlic, and then add the salmon and crush fine, adding 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and  1/2 cup warm milk slowly. Stir until smooth, add the mashed potatoes and stir again. Adjust the salt, add pepper. Serve warm with  toasted baguette and a green salad on the side. Of course, most cooks would now use an electric mixer, but then it won’t be brandade since the name brandade means more or less a crushed mixture. Oh well, who is to know?  

Optional: the zest of a quarter of a lemon. I prefer without.  

Note: there is no need using cream, it does not taste better with it. But, to achieve a more pasty texture, do include the scaled fish skin, especially if you are using electrics. (In the mortar, the skin is hard to grind and you might see some black spots in the otherwise pale pink creamy paste).  


Originally from the town of Nimes, brandade was to be made with salt cod only. The recipe with potatoes is now the most popular and it is a highlight of Provençal cooking. It is important that the garlic is not cooked.  

You can make this the day before and heat it in the oven.

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Tomates farcies au saumon frais

This is good for a hot day. The tomatoes are not cooked and are served chilled, unlike tomates farcies with ground beef or bison stuffing.

Remove the top of four, ripe but still firm, tomatoes. Remove the pulp and save it. Salt the inside of the tomatoes. Poach 200 gr of salmon in a vegetable broth for about 4 minutes. Don’t overcook, it should still be very firm. Let sit in the broth another 10 minutes.

Chop 2 green onions, 10 leaves of basil and the strained pulp in the food processor, add 1 tbsp balsamic and 2 tbsp mayonaise, salt and pepper. Mix. Add the salmon and chop as coarsely as you can. Stir. Turn the tomatoes upside down to drain. Fill them with the salmon mix. Put the tops back on the tomatoes, decorate with parsley and chill two hours.

I served this with new potatoes boiled in the salmon broth. I had more than 200 gr of salmon so I had extra leftover after I filled the tomatoes. I spread that on the potatoes. This was a big dinner and we could not finish both tomatoes on the plate. Was good though and cool!

My salmon was fresh wild Spring, but any kind will do. Fresh is best, frozen is not a problem, and canned is good too especially the sockeye.

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Old Fashioned Apricot Jam

Mamie Odette made apricot jam every year, and this right into her seventies and even maybe eighties. This is the only jam she would make, she thought that it was the only jam worth making at home. I don’t quite agree with that, but the fact is, apricot jam is the best, and besides it is the easiest jam to make. It does not require a lot of time either.

Find two kilograms of ripe apricots, wash them, open them, remove the pits and cut them in quarters in a very large jam making pan or your  two largest frying pans. Add 8 cups sugar. Leave on the counter. Meanwhile, crack the pits with a hammer gently,  and extract the almonds inside. You need about 16 whole almonds. I destroyed quite a few, but still manage to save 16. Boil them in water for 2 minutes and peel them. The bitter peels will come off easy. If you don’t peel them, the jam will be more bitter. Add the almond to the apricots and also a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of ground clove and a pinch of ground anise seeds.

Start cooking uncovered on medium heat  stirring as needed so it does not burn. Skim the foam frequently. Place a small saucer in the freezer. Keep cooking for at least 20 minutes, likely longer. When it feels like the jam might set, try putting about a spoonful on the saucer and putting it back in the freezer for a couple minutes. If it sets, you are ready to add the juice of half a lemon, turn the heat off. Wait five minutes and fill clean jars, each jar should have at least one almond. This is enough jam for about eight jam-size Mason jars but I just used recycled jars with interesting shapes. Sterilize if you are making a lot, otherwise just keep them in the fridge until you need them. There is enough sugar that the jam will not mold if it is not refrigerated for a few days.

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Cauliflower salad

This is one of my favorite salads, the best way to eat cauliflower in my opinion. This is a French classic family recipe, nothing fancy, just the fact that the cauliflower is cooked.

Start by removing all the leaves from a head of cauliflower, then steam it until done, but quite firm. Cut the “flowers” apart in small pieces and add them to a sauce vinaigrette.

Sauce vinaigrette for cauliflower salad:

  • 1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp peanut or canola oil (olive is no so good with cauliflower)
  • 1 crushed clove garlic
  • salt and pepper

Today, I added some watercress leaves because I was out of parsley and that tasted amazing.

Serve either warm or chilled. The cauliflower has a hazelnut taste, delicious…

To avoid odors while cooking cauliflower, add a tsp baking soda to the water!

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Tomates farcies, a wonderful alternate to burgers

If there is no BBQ available,  ground beef will do very well in “tomates farcies” or stuffed tomatoes, a perfectly healthy dish for a student budget.

You need two small to medium size tomatoes per person. A large one would work too but the cooking time will be longer. First cut off the top of the tomatoes,  remove all the pulp inside and save it in a pot.

Make the stuffing in a bowl with  half a small onion sliced very fine, one clove crushed garlic, 250 gr extra lean ground beef, or better bison, one egg, one quarter cup fine bread crumbs, one tbsp balsamic, a little bit of Worcestershire sauce, five sprigs of chopped parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix well. Fill the tomatoes with the stuffing, put the cap back on and bake on 360 for 40 minutes. The stuffing will remain very moist inside the tomatoes. My stuffing was just right to fill five tomatoes. It does not matter if you overfill a bit.

I like to serve this on a bed of rice. So add 2 tbsp olive oil, half a sliced onion to the pulp of the tomatoes, cook on low for 5 minutes, add a cup of jasmine rice, stir for 2 minutes, then add 4 cups water. Stir once, cook open. When there is almost no water left,  stir again, cover and turn down to lowest setting for 5 minutes more. You can present the tomatoes on a bed of rice for a fully balanced meal.


Made by my brother with tomatoes from Provence

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Penny Pierce’s cold squash and zucchini soup

This recipe  and pictures were sent by Penny Pierce from Lakefield Ontario. The vegetables are from her own garden.  Here is what she did:

“I used one green zucchini (this light green variety is nice and buttery) and the yellow scallopini squash, both seeded, along with an onion, garlic fresh from the garden and most the carrot in the photo.  The carrots are thinnings.

After softening off the onion and squash, I added a bit of curry powder and some green Thai curry paste.Then I used two vegetable bouillon cubes/ water instead of stock – not again as this is too salty.  I didn’t taste the buttermilk until after adding, and it too is salty, so next time I think I would skip the stock.  I have now pureed it and it is chilling.  It is a pleasant soft gold colour.  I will garnish with a swirl of plain yogurt (less salty!) some fresh mint leaves and a tiny spoon of mango chutney.  I think this soup would work with coconut milk instead of buttermilk if cooking for a vegan”.

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Cucumber soup

I was given two  small home-grown cucumbers by Carling today, the dark green coarse skin garden kind which is so tasty. Perfect for a refreshing chilled soup.

I peeled  them, cut them in quarters lengthwise, removed the seeds and put them in the food processor with two green onions, and the leaves of a sprig of mint with a bit of salt. I added half a bunch of watercress to give the soup a pale green color and two and a half cups of buttermilk. Then just had to blend,  chill two hours, pour into nice bowls, cups or glasses just  before serving.

For a smoother taste, peel the cucumbers. Also replace the buttermilk with smooth no-fat yogurt.

Dill is also nice instead of mint!

This is a low-fat soup.

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It is so hot in Spain in the summer that it is almost impossible to eat solid food at lunch time. The best thing to do is to have a refreshing Gaspacho before the siesta, a light tasty cold soup full of vitamins with your daily seven fruits/vegetables in one bowl.

Although it does not sound glamorous, you will need to have a piece of stale bread. The bread makes it a soup rather than a vegetable juice. Three inches from a baguette or sourdough bread cut in small chunks to spare the food processor. You add in there four very ripe tasty tomatoes, one red or orange pepper, two cloves garlic, one quarter of a pink or Spanish onion, one quarter of a peeled cucumber, the heart of a celery (the yellow leaves in the centre),  four tbsp  olive oil, two tbsp wine vinegar,  one tbsp balsamic, the juice of half a lemon, two sprigs of parsley, either basil or cilantro. Purée, but not too fine.

Dice a little bit of cucumber, green pepper, and add to the puréed soup, sprinkle with parsley. Serve  chilled with fresh ground pepper.

Depending on the vegetables and your taste, add water if too thick, salt, hot sauce, 1/4 cup white wine, croutons, shreads of Serrano ham (the Spanish prosciutto) or even boiled egg. Today, I added one cup of water and that made  enough for four bowls.

Pepper: it taste fine to use green pepper, but the color won’t be the same bright red.

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Greek Salad

Can you chop vegetables? Then you can make Greek salad in no time. No cooking, no waiting, an easy dinner for a hot summer night.

So I don’t get too many things dirty, I start by making the dressing right in the serving bowl. Crush one clove garlic, add a tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, the juice of half a lemon, 4 tbsp olive oil, fresh ground pepper. Stir well.

For two dinner size  servings, slice a quarter of a large red onion,  cut 2 tomatoes in wedges, 3 inches of cucumber in half rounds, 1 pepper in squares,  pit 12 Kalamata black olives, crumble 75gr Feta cheese. Add to the dressing, stir and sprinkle with a pinch of thyme and a pinch of oregano. Add salt if needed, after you have added the Feta.

Feta cheese: the original is made from ewe’s milk, but there are variants with goat milk and others.

Peppers: either green, orange or red, or a combo, some green is good for the colour mix.

Ready for dinner

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Fresh cream of pea, no cream required

This is a cold soup with a  light green colour, nothing  to compare with traditional Royal Navy style  pea soup, more like a contemporary designer pastel…The taste is also completely different because there are no split peas in it, but only fresh peas that I just got at the Root Cellar (the quick part) then shelled (where are my kids when I need a kitchen slave). The amounts below are just enough for four.

So, I shelled the peas to get about two cups full. I sauteed them on medium heat in olive oil with one sliced onion for 2 minutes stirring and not browning. Then, I added two and a half cups of chicken broth  and half the leaves of a butter lettuce and cooked until tender, about another five minutes. Puree in the food processor until really fine. Add one and a half cup of buttermilk, stir well, refrigerate three hours. Serve into soup plates, sprinkle with chives and add fresh ground pepper.

Mint: no mint unless you are British, then  if you must add eight leaves of fresh mint to the food processor, forget the chives.

Cream: not necessary unless you are addicted or you want to serve this hot, then replace the buttermilk by light cream or a mix of heavy cream and broth.

Buttermilk: Extremely healthy, high in protein, low-fat, amazing refreshing taste!

Food Processor: For good results, easy and quick. For perfect results, strain first through a Moulin à légumes and then purée again in the food processor, this will keep the skins out, give an even smoother result.

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Chicken in “Gros Sel”

Of course, this dish is for show, pretty amazing when you break the salt crust to deliver a moist chicken with incredible flavour. No such thing as dry chicken breast. It is not a lot of extra work but there are a few tricks. My last crust did not quite form as it should and broke… the chicken was too salty, which is not the case when it is done right!   I have now figured out exactly what to do!

Match a chicken with a cast-iron pot, so that it just fits. Line the pot with foil so that you have extra foil on the side to pull the chicken out later. Make a bed of coarse salt in the bottom. Remove all the loose fat, and fill the chicken cavity with young leeks chopped fine and a few pepper corns. If you happen to have any, insert slices of truffle under the skin, haha… just joking this is not necessary. Lay the chicken on the bed of salt and completely cover with salt filling all the empty spots on the side. Use a lot of salt, I did not have quite enough, my first mistake. Roast at 375 for 85 minutes (for a medium chicken). Do not use convection, that was   probably my second mistake .

Add a lot of salt

Now, take out of the pot by lifting the foil onto a tray. Take a picture! Break the crust  away, lift the chicken out and transfer to a cutting board. Don’t save any of the juices as they will be too salty. (My third mistake). Remove the remaining salt  with a brush, carve the chicken and serve with a light butter sauce, sauteed mushrooms and jasmin rice.


Chanterelles and white mushrooms

Butter sauce:

Melt about 1/4 cup butter, add 1/2 tsp flour, stir on low but do not brown, add 1 cup of chicken broth and 1 tsp of the juice from your chicken. Taste and add more if it is not salty enough. You can add the leeks from inside the chicken or serve them on the side.


Do brush the salt away!

The salt:

Use any coarse salt, kosher or not. Bulk stores and supermarkets carry different kinds and sizes. The amount will vary with the chicken and pot. I guess 2 kg should do.

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Markus’ Wharfside, possibly the best on Vancouver Island

Anchored the sailboat behind the breakwater in Sooke basin last night after an 80 nautical miles ride from Effingham Bay in Barkley sound. Quickly inflated the dinghy and left it at the Government dock, and walked up the few steps to Markus’s Wharfside heavenly cottage. The welcome was amazing despite our weathered looks and sailing clothes and before we knew it, we sat down at a table overlooking the basin and Juan de Fuca Straight covered in white caps announcing what would turn out to be a dark and stormy night, with sounds out of Wuthering Heights, later at anchor  in a true gale.

All the dishes we ordered were a 10 and the service was also a 10, unquestionably. In fact, everything was a 10, the room, the view, the knowledgeable staff  eager to please, the linens, the produce, the herbs, the seafood, the vegetables, the presentation. A rare combination of perfection in a soothing setting, the table was by the front beds with among others, rosemary, sage and dahlias that could rival with Cougar Annie’s famous plants from the Hesquiat peninsula.

Tuscan style seafood soup

Baked goat cheese with fruit preserve, local organic greens in Balsamico vinaigrette

Pan-fried scallops with white wine, lemon, tarragon, butter sauce

Young leek risotto with prawns

Tiramisu with Amaretto cream

Belgium chocolate Mousse with berry compote

Panna Cotta with caramel sauce

Markus’ Wharfside alone is worth a trip to Sooke! Should not wait for a sail to Barkley sound!

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Pommes Mousseline (aka mashed potatoes)

At a restaurant, people eat “pommes mousseline”, but at home they eat “purée” and here it is mashed potatoes. Of course, one can have great mashed if they add enough cream. But, at home, I prefer this much healthier recipe with Buttermilk. Buttermilk is quite low-fat and very high in protein, and in my opinion more than a match for cream. In fact, this would be a recipe that would be very suitable for athletes.

Add a large potato per person to a pot with  salted cold water. Cook gently until well done. For a six potato recipe, bring one cup milk  with a pinch of thyme to a boil. In a non-stick or cast-iron pot, sauté  a crushed clove of garlic on low in 2tbsp olive oil. Transfer the potatoes and hand-mash them, then add the hot milk. Whisk in until smooth. Add the buttermilk, whisk again. Add more buttermilk if too dry. Salt.

Bake 10 minutes in the oven. Sprinkle with chives, add fresh ground pepper.  Mmm, nice refreshing taste.

The milk can be replaced by a cup of broth for a different taste and of course the true pommes mousseline contain whole milk only.

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Gateau de semoule better than cream of wheat pudding!

This was another favorite of Mémé Marie-Louise always pushing for healthy desserts.  This meets her criteria with lots of iron, low fat, and a delicious taste. Frankly, you could do worse than eat this for breakfast!

Soak 3/4 cup golden raisins in a cup  with  1 tbsp rum and 3 tbsp water for at least half an hour stirring once in a while.

Bring one litre of milk with 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp vanilla extract  and 3/4 cup sugar close to a boil in a 4 quart non-stick pot, turn the heat down and add slowly while stirring a cup of wheatlets or cream of wheat. Stir for 4 minutes, cool down. Stir into that four eggs beaten like for an omelette,  the raisin mix, and the zest of half a lemon or orange.

For the caramel, clean a stainless steel pot thoroughly, add 4 tbsp sugar, 3tbsp water, 1 tbsp lemon juice and heat up to golden brown.  If the sugar remains white and becomes crusty, your pot was not really  clean, but the lemon juice helps. Watch like a hawk! As soon as it is barely golden brown, remove from the heat and add 4 tbsp water careful of splashing sugar on your hands. Right away pour this in a crown mold or a pie dish. Add the cream of wheat mix and smoothen. Bake for 40 minutes at 325.  Cool down, refrigerate 3 hours, see if you can take out of the dish to serve with the caramel on top by flipping over a serving platter. Serve very cold. This pudding is enough for eight adults or six children at the most, trust me!



The wheat is wheat semolina also called wheatlets, fine to medium.

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Cream Spinach

Another favorite at Chez Solange Restaurant in London in the seventies where I started as a waitress with a French accent. It is often served with a roasted ham with tomates provençales on the side for a colorful plate.

Interesting fact is that one does not just throw cream on top of the spinach,  or maybe that is a “nouvelle cuisine”  short cut. In my opinion, too fat, too thin, no taste. Here is my way!

You need one  bunch of spinach per person, well washed under cold running water and the base of the stems removed. Cook them in a large pot in salted water about 10 minutes, hydroponically grown spinach cooks faster. Drain very well, squishing all the water out. Chop in the food processor either medium fine or really fine.

Rub the bottom of a cast-iron or non-stick pot with 2 clove garlic halved. Turn heat on low, add two pieces of butter the size of a walnut and one tbsp flour. Stir with a whisk and add slowly one and a half cup cold whole milk and keep whisking to smooth. Let thicken quite a bit. Turn the heat off, add 1/4 cup cream, salt and a pinch of nutmeg, then the spinach. This much sauce is good for six. If you are not sure, add the sauce to the spinach instead and stop before it gets too liquid. Do not reheat on the stove, but in the oven. The cream spinach should not turn brown.

Roasted ham with cream spinach and tomates provençales

Tip: the spinach can be on its own or combined with  either beet leaves, arragula, or sorrel.

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Chilled Watercress Soup

This is very refreshing on a  hot summer lunch, like today. We have not really had many yet here in Victoria, BC. this year.

Start by  rubbing a split garlic clove at the bottom of a small pot, then turn the heat on medium low to slowly saute a sliced onion in butter with one tsp olive oil until golden. The slower the better, the taste will be both stronger and sweeter.

In another pot, boil a peeled potato cut in quarters 8 minutes in two cup broth, add two bunches watercress minus 2 inches cut off at the base and cook till the potato is well done. The lid should be on the pot.

Mix the two pots’ contents in the blender and pulse until very fine. Add  one and half cup buttermilk. Chill one hour.

Hot version: add 1/2 cup cream and more broth, no buttermilk.

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Gratin de Poireaux

Woody core means old leek, do not buy!

This is a nice filling  dish and my vegetarian guest tonight seem to love it, I had no left-overs. Pick your leeks well, only young leeks that do not have a woody core in the centre. The centre should be pale yellow tender leaves, unlike the picture. About one leek per person.

Split four leeks vertically and clean them well under running cold water, cut them in slices 2 inches long, then  cook them in salted water until tender. In the meantime, in a non-stick or cast-iron pot, rub a split garlic clove on the bottom. On low heat, add a small cube of butter,  a tsp olive oil  and a tbsp flour. Stir with a whisk and add one cup of cold whole milk, let thicken, add a pinch of nutmeg, salt to taste. Turn the heat off and add  1/4 cup cream, a beaten egg while stirring with the whisk. Add to that 100gr of grated cheese, Swiss or Gruyère are best. After you have drained the leeks really well, add them to the sauce and pour into a gratin dish. Grate another 50 gr of cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes until golden.

In Le Creuset wok

Note: the cream is optional, it can be replaced by 2  small cubes of butter or left out completely.

If you like leeks, look up: and

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Cheese Soufflé, a French family tradition

This is perhaps the ultimate cliché of French home-cooking, a staple of a typical French diet. It is always exciting as you never know if it is actually going to rise and even worse, you never know how quickly it will fall even if it does rise. You can’t win, the soufflé will invariably  either not rise, fall if you open the oven door, fall when you take it out of the oven. And, if it is still “soufflé” when you present it, there is the guarantee that it will fall when you cut it. No money back for this recipe, unless… unless you make the ramekin size and serve it in the ramekin. But really, you should enjoy the rise and fall, don’t take it too hard if it does not rise to Julia Child’s standard, it is for the taste after all, and the fun,  not the picture!

Rub a garlic clove cut in half at the bottom of a stainless pot, melt 1/2 cup of butter in the pot and add 3/4 cup flour and 2 tbsp corn starch. Whisk together till smooth, don’t brown. Add  2 cups of warm milk seasoned with 1/2 tsp salt and a small pinch nutmeg, whisk while you bring almost to a boil. Turn the heat off. Wait 5 minutes, whisk in 6 egg yolks one by one, and 100 gr of Gruyère or Swiss cheese. Stir. Transfer to wide bowl. Let sit for 1/2 hour on the counter covered with a dishtowel. It is just about the time to clean up and beat the egg whites by hand adding a pinch of salt before starting. If you have an electric beater, take a break. Incorporate the whites to the mix gently with a fork and pour into individual ramekins or two medium sized dishes. The dishes can’t be very big as you have to fill them to the rim. One large dish almost guarantees failure to rise.

Pre-heat the oven to 380, put the ramekins in and turn down to 360. Keep a look-out for 25 minutes, but do not open the oven, I repeat, do not open the oven. At this point, you need luck, but adjust the oven as needed to reach a golden brown tall soufflé. Remove from the oven, run to the table and eat immediately. It is your choice  whether to “démouler” (take out of the ramekin) or not! Add fresh ground pepper  and serve with a big salad.

Tip:If you make the soufflé in small ramekins, do not put them straight on the oven rack but into a dish with 2 inches of water forming a bain marie, and line its bottom with a couple pages from a magazine or newspaper to help distribute the heat and prevent uneven bubbling.

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Fresh Peas in artichoke hearts, a highlight of French cuisine

I had not eaten this in years and years. Typically, you would not eat this at home, as it takes some trouble, but it used to be a classic in restaurants in France on the Sunday menu as a side to a leg of lamb for example.

Fresh peas and artichoke hearts

You need the biggest artichokes you can find, there are nice ones from California just now if you don’t happen to grow them yourself. Steam one artichoke (stem broken off) per person in the pressure cooker, or a large pot, until the leaves come off easily. Let them cool a bit and open the leaves to remove them without taking too much from the heart. Eat the leaves at a separate meal with vinaigrette to dip them in. Remove the straw (choke) in the heart as well by pulling on it. The hearts are ready or they can be warmed up later in butter .

removing the leaves and straw

Fresh artichoke hearts or "fonds"

Don't have to eat the watercress!






If you don’t mind extra waste, another way to prepare the artichokes is to cut the leaves off with a knife before cooking, leaving more of the meat from the leaves on the heart itself. Then they are boiled in salt water and then the straw can be removed.  It makes for a slightly bigger heart. Restaurants do it that way, but I enjoy eating the leaves so why throw them out.

Shell the peas by pressing on the side of the pods. Discard the pods. Contrary to what some people say, they are not worth saving, not only it involves a lot of time, but the result tastes rather poor and we don’t have food shortages like in war times. Pods are only good for the compost pile!

In a small pot, warm up two small cubes of butter and a tsp olive oil with a sliced green onion, add the peas on medium and salt. Cook about 5 minutes depending on the size of the peas and their freshness.

Arrange the peas inside the artichoke hearts, set on a bed of watercress and serve hot. One per person is good, goes well with tomates provençales as garnish for a roast.

I hate to admit that this is best with fresh peas and artichokes but it is not bad at all with canned small peas and artichoke bottoms, if you want to make this in the winter.

If you make the artichoke hearts in advance , a little lemon juice will prevent them from turning black.

If you do not like artichokes leaves with vinaigrette, throw them in, next time you cook nugget potatoes, it will give them a wonderful flavour. Remove them before serving.

At the market in France

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Hot Artichoke dip

This is just a quick dip. Chop together in the food processor one can of artichokes hearts, 2 sliced green onions, 5 green olives, 5 black olives, both pitted, 1/2 tsp seasoning salt, two small cubes blue cheese, 1/4 bunch of cilantro or parsley with the juice of half a lemon, 1/4 cup cream and fresh ground pepper.

Warm up in the oven or 90 seconds in the micro-wave. Stir well.

To pit the olives, I use the cherry pitter below, and yes it works with cherries too.

Tip: taste such as good chilled! that’s for the Ontario readers.

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Sorrel not spinach!

Gardeners, I am telling you, this is the most rewarding crop  you will ever plant in your garden. Sorrel looks  likes  a bit like lettuce, a bit like spinach, grows easily, and is the tastiest vegetable. It can be added to sauces in small amounts and that’s I do when I have to buy it. For some reason, it is always overpriced at the store and that’s if you can even find it. Now, if you have your own garden, or if a friend offers a bag full of sorrel to you, here is what I do, very much like my other grand-mother used to do. Mémé Marie-Louise had a big garden in Aix-les-Bains in the Savoie region after she retired, and that is where I would spend all the school vacations.

Gather a bag full of sorrel (bribe if you have too). Clean it under cold running water, then soak it in very cold water for at least an hour, drain and do it again. The soaking is essential to remove some of the acidity.  Fill your largest stock pot with water, salt, and bring it to a boil. Cook the sorrel until tender, the time will very much vary whether you have grown yourself or bought it. There are different species around. As soon as it is done, drain, rinse again, drain. It is like spinach, there is not that much left but that is vegetable gold (except that it is green!).

Warm it up on low with butter only. Serve with croutons and boiled eggs.


Oseille (sorrel)


Croutons: Cut thin slices of baguette. Brown them on low heat in a frying pan with butter and a tsp of olive oil. The olive oil will prevent the butter from burning.

Tip: Spinach and beet greens can be prepared the same way, no extra-rinse required.

There is  usually sorrel  from Vantreight farms for sale at the Root Cellar in Victoria for $1.99 bunch this week. Incredible taste, incredible price!( so high). This fall, I have been able to buy really nice sorrel at the bulk store “ For Good Measure” by Peppers on Cadboro Bay. They  are so nice, I was able to convince them to special order a larger quantity. In any case, you can also mix the sorrel with fresh spinach, and you will have a two-tone  green vegetable as the spinach remains “spinach green”, while the sorrel turns yellow green as it cooks.

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Tarte au Citron

This is my absolute favorite dessert, ahead of chocolate mousse and tarte Tatin and even Paris-Brest. It takes a bit of time but it is well worth it.

Tarte au citron

The pastry: It is a pâte sucrée. Mix 1 + 3/4 cup all purpose flour with 1/2 cup soft butter with 2 knives. Add 6 tbsp sugar, one egg yolk , 1 tsp vinegar, and 1/4 cup cold water. Form a ball and put in the fridge.

The filling: mix 1/2 cup melted butter with 1/2 cup sugar, stir well. Add 3 eggs + the white leftover from the pastry, 1/4 cup whipping cream, the juice of two lemons and the zest of 3 lemons grated very fine. I have a grater from Lee Valley Tools which was gifted to me at farm Christmas many years ago by an anonymous Santa. It has been the best kitchen gadget ever! (so long as I clean it immediately).

Lee Valley Tools grater/zester

Back to the dough: Roll  it out and spread if on a dish with a removable bottom if you have one, or a regular pie plate. Cover the dough with wax paper and then add  a pie chain weight or dry beans or small pebbles or whatever to bake it 15 min at 375. The idea is that it does not rise. Take out, lower the oven to 325, remove wax paper and beans.

Pour the filling and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown when your knife blade can come out clean. Decorate with a slice of lemon  (remember to cut a thin slice before you squeeze the lemon) or other citrus and a sprig of mint! Cool and refrigerate 2 hours before eating.

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Daube de Provence

My maternal grand-mother, Mamie Odette, was born in Molière-sur-Cèze north of Alès in the Gard  in the heart of Provence, in 1900. Her father was the guard at the railway crossing and she married a tax collector who was a fine gourmet. She had to learn to cook well, you guessed he was a loving but demanding husband. In any case, because he was a lot older, she was  widowed fairly young and never re-married. About once a month, she would invite one of her grand-children for lunch on Thursday since there was no school that afternoon. The treat was not only the great lunch, but the fact that the other siblings were not included and you would be treated like a princess. Daube was one her signature dishes and she loved making it as it reminded her of her youth.

My recipe is slightly changed as I find it is better to make the Daube in the pressure cooker, but Mamie did not have one. Start two days in advance by covering one kg of beef stew chunks with red wine in a bowl with two cloves, the zest of the quarter of an orange, thyme, one bayleaf, 2 cloves garlic. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, gently brown the beef, after you strained it, in a large frying pan saving the wine. In the pressure cooker, (or a cast iron cocotte), gently fry 4 slices of bacon sliced lardon size, and one sliced onion, on low heat with some duck fat or olive oil. Add the beef, the wine from the marinade, the orange peel, one more cup of wine and one cup water or broth. Simmer one hour on low.

Add 6 carrots, 6 sticks celery, 6 sprigs of parsley, one onion, all sliced, and 3 tbsp tomato paste or 3 peeled tomatoes cut in quarters. Simmer another hour and add 30 small black pitted olives. Stir. Cool. Refrigerate another night. Before serving, if the gravy is too  thin,  take out a cup of liquid, add a tsp of flour, stir, and incorporate back, then re-heat. Add fresh ground pepper and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Here is a big dinner for five.

The olives: Olives from Provence are best, but small Kalamata preserved in brine do well, just rinse them so you can’t taste the brine. Canned black olives are not suitable, better use green olives in that case.

The pressure cooker: I find it works well because it shuts tight and speeds things up. this said a Le Creuset cast-iron pot is fine too, but increase the time by half and check for liquids once in a while.

Daube is served with boiled or mashed potatoes or noodles.

At Mamie Odette’s house, inside the kitchen cabinet door, there was this “Pense-bête” or “Aide-mémoire”, so you could make a grocery list. It was pre-war and you can see that a lot of items, such as petrol and black soap, are no longer grocery list favorites.

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Fresh Snap Peas

Snap peas are eaten whole, unlike greens peas that need to be shelled. They are also different from snow peas (pois gourmands) which are flat. They should be really fresh, as peas do not save more than a couple days. My friend Paul Vigneux has been known to literally run with the peas from his garden to the  boiling pot*. If you have time, break the top end off and pull on it to remove the thread along the body of the pod.

So you have a steamer boiling, add the snap peas and cover for four minutes, no more, no less. The peas will be bright green, crunchy, tender. Eat plain or with a little bit green onion sautéed in butter. Easy on the onion as the  snap pea flavour is delicate. Salt!

Steamed four minutes exactly, the fresher the least time required!

*Paul corrected me saying that the actual reason he was running was that it started raining!

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Canard aux olives

This is a roasted duck with green olives. I bought a fresh grade A Canada duck weighing two kg and that was just enough for three. Duck meat is very tasty, rich in nutrients and quite different from chicken. It is not so tender and fairly fat so it is prepared differently.

First, empty the cavity completely, removing liver etc.., also remove any fatty tisuues near the end, insert 4 cloves garlic, 2 slices bacon and thyme and start roasting on 325 for 1h45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, skim out the fat in a gravy separator, prick the skin with a fork, add the vegetables. Today, I had a potato, 2 baby white turnips, and 2 beets per person. 30 minutes later, skim out the excess fat again, prick the skin and finish for 30 minutes more. The duck skin should be a nice golden brown and crispy by now. Adjust the oven temperature the last 10 minutes if you need to brown the skin more.

Prick the skin with a fork to release the fat

We have cooked this small duck  at a low temperature for so long so that the fat would melt and could be removed and so that the meat is not overcooked and dry.

The sauce:

While this duck is finishing cooking in the oven, chop a shallot or a small onion very fine, sauté it in a non-stick pot, turn the heat off. Pour the juices, now at the bottom of your gravy separator, into the pot, add a tbsp mustard, a tbsp cognac or balsamic, stir well. Add and dissolve 1 tbsp flour. When this is smooth, add a cup of broth ( any broth is fine, I just used the broth from my leeks from yesterday), turn the heat on medium and thicken the sauce while stirring. Add 3/4 cup small green olives sliced, salt and pepper. Do not boil.

Carve the duck, set on a hot plate with the vegetables. Pour four spoons of sauce on the meat only.

A few chopped up sun-dried tomatoes or a tbsp tomato paste  can be added to the sauce. Cream always optional. This sauce goes well with chicken as well or with pork chops.

If you do not have a gravy separator, pour the fat in a container, put in the freezer, then remove the congealed fat at the top with a spoon.

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Leek salad

Leek salad is a staple of French home cooking coming back to the menu about twice a month. Even children don’t seem to mind eating that vegetable, maybe because of the nice vinaigrette dressing.

Choosing the leeks is the most important part. Best are young leeks with lots of white and light yellow parts  or light green. Hard dark green leaves won’t be tender. When you buy the leeks, also avoid those leeks that have a woody hard core in the centre as they will be hard and fibrous. Good leeks will have tender yellow leaves in the centre as shown in the picture.

Cut the leaves in half vertically, remove the bottom and rinse well under cold water. If the leeks are very long, you may have to cut them again in half horizontally so you can cook them. Avoid that if you can, as it is traditional to serve the leeks with the whole length, each person therefore getting a bit of white, yellow and green.

Cook the leeks in salted water in a pressure cooker or pot, drain well, keep the broth for cooking rice or soup. Arrange the leeks neatly on a platter. Serve with Dijon mustard vinaigrette, warm or cold. but do not refrigerate.

Mustardy vinaigrette in pottery made by CJ Best

Vinaigrette: In a cup or glass, stir one tbsp Dijon mustard with two tbsp wine vinegar, salt and pepper. While you stir with a fork, incorporate  slowly five tbsp canola, sunflower or peanut oil. Keep stirring until your sauce looks creamy. You may have to give it another little stir just before serving.

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Apple Sausage Bake

This recipe was passed onto me verbally by my mother-in-law just after I got married, it was one of those Campbell soup recipes that encouraged the use of Campbell cans with every dinner, disguised as your own cooking. So I tried the recipe, and it was not bad but over many years, I have kept changing the ingredients to improve it. Well there is not much left of the original recipe, just the apples and the can of Campbell tomato soup. I am sure it could be done with tomatoes instead but then, it would loose its identity, I could no  longer call it the Campbell apple sausage dish, could I?

It is really a six layer bake. First layer is one large chopped onion with a drizzle of olive oil, second a bunch of chopped swiss chard, third comes five sausages skinned and cut up in small balls, fourth are two chopped yellow peppers, fifth are four apples cut in eights and last is the can of Campbell condensed tomato soup diluted with 1/4 cup of water and mix with one tsp of Sharwoods curry paste. Add Thyme, fresh ground pepper, hot sauce to taste, easy on the salt because of Campbell’s double salt in the soup! Bake in the oven for one hour on 350. Do not stir, but baste the apples with the sauce twice.

Notes:This makes enough for five, but usually I double the amounts. The peppers can be of a different color but the taste will change . The curry is essential. Hot Italian sausage is good but any kind of sausage is fine. This is a great idea for a potluck as it can be warmed up again in the oven or micro-wave and also you don’t need a knife so you can eat standing.

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Claziena Mooy’s Ginger Cookies

Claziena, born in Heemskerk, Netherlands, emigrated to Nova Scotia with her husband  Cornelus and nine children in April 1939 and they bought a  dairy farm in the Annapolis valley. She was an accomplished baker, but her daughter Dora is even better says Dunnery about my mother-in-law. And I agree, she is the best baker I know. We recently convinced her to share one of her secret recipes with us for the joy of her grand-children. Of course, coming from a large family the recipe below will yield five dozen cookies, no less!

Mix 2 cups sugar with 1 cup butter,  add 1/2 cup fancy molasses and two eggs beaten with a fork. Sift together 4 cups flour, 4 tsp baking soda, 2tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt. Combine the two and chill at least 30 minutes.

Form small balls about the size of a walnut , dip into sugar and set on a baking sheet so they will flatten out with the sugar on top. Bake about 10 minutes at 375 or until nicely brown.

This is the modified healthy version(Grand-Ma Dora’s). The original (Great Grand-Ma Claziena) called for one and half cup of shortening instead of butter, and  an extra half cup of sugar. Also the balls were not to be flattened but dipped in water before being dipped in sugar making them more chewy and less crispy. Dora prefers the cookies her way, crispy with a bit more snap. Of course, all the children and grand-children prefer the original recipe from their Dutch Oma.

My two cents worth: I made five batches trying  round versus flatten, dip in water vs no dip, and the winner is : no dip, round shape. I had to turn my  oven down to 350 on convection bake to get the nice golden brown in 10 minutes.I thought five dozen cookies was a lot. Actually, the above gave me a count of six dozen, short of one. Perfect for taking sailing, ginger is good to prevent sea-sickness.

Penny ‘s UPdate or UPtake on this recipe:

“Today I baked ginger cookies.  I used your recipe, with the roll in sugar/Bake at 375 method.  However, I made them double ginger – added 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger at the end.  They are delicious!”

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Strawberry delight

The local strawberries are ready for picking almost everywhere in Canada. There are so many good things to make with them, but if you want to really enjoy the amazing strawberry flavour, here is what my grand-mother used to do almost every Sunday for lunch in Summer. Most French people have a Sunday lunch gourmet meal that goes from noon to 4 pm, and they often skip dinner as a consequence.

Sunday morning early, pick strawberries from your garden or make a quick visit to the farm or the market. This is essential so that you do not have to wash the strawberries, any sand or soil can be brushed off gently. My grand-mother always delegated this job to a  grand-kid.

The next phase was also delegated to a happy little kid who was entrusted with a sharp Opinel knife to remove the green and slice the strawberries in half or even quarters for the really big ones.

The strawberries are put gently in a wide serving bowl, sprinkled with one tbsp white sugar and the juice of half a lemon and given a very gentle stir.

87 year old Grand-Pa Mike with Nick back from picking

They are ready to eat by the time Dessert time has arrived. Never put them in the fridge!

If you need something looking more grand for dessert, put the above mix in glasses or cups and add a large spoon of  Balkan yogurt, plain, coconut or lemon flavor. Decorate with a sprig of fresh mint.

Optional: Add one tbsp of Kirsch or white rum when you add the lemon juice!

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Pacific Fanny Bay Oysters in blue cheese sauce

Fanny Bay oysters are farmed on the  East coast of Vancouver Island. They are a fairly large and very tasty oyster that is best eaten cooked.

You will need an average of four oysters per person as a main course, just one or two as an appetizer . For eight oysters, I peeled, chopped and sautéed one shallot in olive oil, then added one tbsp balsamic and two tbsp white wine. When the shallot looks golden, add the drained oysters and sauté for 7 minutes to brown them lightly. Now, add 3tbsp 33% cream and  two cubes (each 1 inch in size) of French or Danish blue cheese. Melt the cheese on low, let the cream thicken 5 minutes.

Serve on very hot plates with plain rice, or in a vol au vent, which  is a  small bowl made of puff pastry.

Vol au vent


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Tomato Pie

The tomatoes are starting to have taste and it is going to get even better with the sun coming out for summer. This pie is a very good recipe for very ripe or even over-ripe tomatoes.

First, drop 5 tomatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes so you can peel them. Take the cores out ,cut them in eights and stew them in a frying pan with olive oil, 1 finely diced yellow pepper, 3 chopped green onions, 6 leaves of fresh basil, one chopped clove garlic, 6 chopped sun-dried tomatoes,  1 tbsp balsamic, salt, until well done and all liquid gone.

Pastry by Dunnery

Fill a pre-baked (10 minutes) thin pastry pie shell with the stew. Decorate with tomato slices and kalamata olives, and bake for 20 minutes on 360.

Add a drizzle of olive oil or 3 tbsp 33% cream and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Add fresh ground pepper before serving.

By the way, it is  just as good cold the next day.

This goes very well with a green salad and  goat cheese.

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Petits pois à la française

French for… green peas a la French!  Green peas are a staple of British cuisine. Curiously enough, the French thought they should have their own way of cooking peas and serve them neither steamed nor mushed. This is what they came up with.

Paul Vigneux's home-grown petits pois à la française. Photo by Penny Pierce, Lakefield, ON

Slice 3 green onions and put them in a pot with 3 cups of green peas and a good

Butter lettuce

chunk of butter + a tbsp olive oil. Add butter lettuce leaves (preferably the smaller leaves from the centre), salt. Cook covered until the peas are tender. The flavor of the peas is enhanced by the lettuce, an amazing combination.

Options: some recipes add a tsp of sugar, I think that’s too British, some add mint, way too British, some add lardons, not British but not my preference as they overwhelm the peas especially if they are fresh. I guess lardons are okay on frozen peas.

Fresh peas have arrived at the Root Cellar on Mackenzie in Victoria, BC

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Beurre Blanc sauce on Spring Salmon Steak

Tonight was Father’s Day dinner and we had wild Pacific Spring salmon, also called Chinook or King salmon. It was served with a sauce au beurre blanc, fresh peas, and Ravioles de Romans. Ravioles are a small herb ravioli from the region of Romans in the Isère valley in France. For dessert, we had apple pie made with butter pastry and a chocolate truffle.

The spring salmon was just pan-fried in olive oil. The sauce is the important part. It is the only reason my kids agreed to eat fish when they were kids, and it is still the best sauce to go with fish or seafood. Because of all the butter required, it has a special status, and is only served on big occasions.

Adding butter

Peel three large shallots, slice them, and cook them thoroughly in non-stick pot with 1/2 glass  dry white wine, 1/2 glass cider vinegar, 1 tbsp balsamic, with a lid on. The liquids will evaporate anyway and if they do, add a little water until the shallots are done. Then, you can purée the shallot reduction in the blender or put it through the moulin à légumes, or leave it be, depending on whether you want the final sauce to be like a cream or if you want to be able to feel the texture of the shallots.

And more butter

Next step is to return the purée to the pot and add 3 tbsp whipping cream. This addition is not part of the original recipe. However, it taste good and it makes the sauce much easier to make. Most cooks are afraid of beurre blanc because when one does not add that little cream, the butter has a tendency to separate and turn into oil. It is then spoiled.

Under very low heat, stirring clockwise constantly with a wooden spoon,   add small pieces of butter one by one. The butter melts and joins the emulsion and looks like a white cream. Add at least 1/4 cup butter, more if you need a lot of sauce. Add salt and pepper. Stir until it thickens to your liking. Never let come to a boil. The trouble is, unless you have help in the kitchen, you can’t be stirring and cooking dinner at the same time and sometimes the butter will turn into oil. If this happens, I know a little trick that can save the sauce, and the day. Just add about 3 tbsp almost boiling water to the sauce and stir vigorously, the sauce should be saved. If this fails, you can also add a little bit of cream and stir.

At the last minute, pour some sauce over the salmon on heated plates.

This sauce is excellent on lobster, scallops, halibut, crab, salmon. It is quite rich and is usually reserved to go with noble (ie expensive) fish or seafood. Whenever my parents had guests, I was hired to stir the beurre blanc and yes after you have done it so many times, you get a good hand with it.

There is this phrase in French, when somebody achieves something difficult , you say Chapeau!, meaning  I tip my hat to you. Now this is for my good friend Jim Doak in T.O., if you can make beurre blanc, I will give you the hat!

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Cole slaw

Nice name for a cabbage salad…. which is exactly how it is made. Cut the green cabbage into quarters, remove the white hard core, shred with a knife, a mandoline or a food processor.

Make a dressing in the serving bowl with 2 tbsp cider vinegar, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, salt, 3tbsp olive oil. Stir well, add 4  sliced green onions and the cabbage.  Mix well.

If you like  creamy no fat cole slaw, replace the olive oil with 1/2 cup plain no-fat yogurt.

Depending on what’s available, you may add a grated carrot, a sliced apple, a sliced green pepper, raisins, roasted sesame seeds, nuts, your choice!

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Creamy Hummus with zing!

Summer time is here and the need for healthy snacks to take sailing or to parties. My version of hummus is easy, all the ingredients are readily available, completely healthy. It is very low-fat, and check that zing!

Chop three cloves of garlic in the food processor, add a can of chick peas rinsed very thoroughly under cold water  with the juice of half a lemon,  3/4 cup plain no-fat yogurt, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1tbsp balsamic, 1/2 cup cilantro, salt to taste. Puree. Don’t stop until it is smooth and creamy.

Eat with Pita bread, Kalamata olives, cucumber or as a spread to replace mayonnaise in sandwiches.

Optional: a sprinkle of hot sauce.

I had a visitor while I was doing the hummus, heard that chirpy sound, someone calling for their mummy. Was two baby otters. Seems that the mother has her den under my porch!

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Les Frites

When my brother  finished his degree at the Lausanne Hotel school, he had to report for compulsory military service in France for one year. Like all new recruits, he had to do “les classes” or new recruit break-in for three months, and then by an “act of God”, he was asked to report for duty at the kitchen of the Elysée palace, the residence of the French President. (I think that God was this good friend of my Dad, a chef named Paul Bocuse).

Under the close supervision of the Elysée executive chef, my brother would order and prepare all the food required for the President and his guests , both for official  events and for personal meals. It would certainly get more interesting on calm week-ends when the young recruits were left on their own to hold the fort in the kitchen. They still had to be prepared for anything and could direct order from the best shops in Paris anything they thought the president my like, whether seafood, best cuts of meats, wild mushrooms, etc… and they were not shy about being ready, they always had magnificent meals to cook, hold, and maybe taste, and maybe even eat before they would spoil, if no guests showed up!

On the really quiet nights, when nothing was up and no one was around, the president relished a good steak with “frites” and a green salad. So simple, yet so French!

I make French fries here in Canada all the time, or rather my son Nicolas would  make them before he relocated in Ottawa. We had  four  of those electric deep fryers for the home  over the years and the last one just died. I have been doing without one since, making the fries in a large Le Creuset stock pot, the one my daughter gave me for my birthday.

Back to the French fries, the potatoes…. the potatoes in Canada are great but  they are not such a good match for fries, as potatoes cultivated in France or Holland. So now that we all know Canadian fries will never taste quite like the presidential French fries in Paris, let’s give it our best shot. They will be delicious. The French fries though, they are worth the trip to France.

Peel and cut two medium size baking  potatoes or Russet potatoes or even Yukon gold, per person. Cut them in four  or five slices vertically, and then cut each slice in long fries less than 1 cm square. Immediately, rinse them well under very cold water. Then, let them soak in a large bowl completely covered with ice water for 2 hours or more in the fridge. Turn the deep fryer on the maximum heat or heat the oil in your pot. (The pot has to be very large as the oil should not reach higher than 1/4 in height and you need a steaming basket).

Rinse again and drain the potatoes well. Dry them thoroughly in a clean kitchen towel or terry towel. Lower the basket  gently in the oil when it is hot. Do not overload or the fries will not cook right. Fry for more or less 7 minutes depending on the pot,the size of your fries and the size of the batch , covered if it is the electric fryer, uncovered if it is a pot. Lift the basket out and take a few minutes to prepare everything  else including a  heated  serving dish lined with paper towel for the fries. At the last minute, do a second dip, until the fries are literally golden. Bring them out, shake the basket, transfer in the bowl, sprinkle with salt immediately.

Enjoy without vinegar,  ketch-up or mayonnaise! Dine like a king, oops sorry, a president!

Tips:For 5 people, you need  about 10 potatoes cooked in two batches. Serve everyone a few fries and make the second batch while they eat, it will be hot when you serve it. Never eat cold fries, and don’t re-heat them. Do not use new potatoes or potatoes that have green parts under the skin. Do not cover the fries or they will get soggy. Canola or peanut oil are good for frying.


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Roasted Butternut squash

We seem to have had a cold snap with fierce winds here in Victoria and felt like a  lamb roast dinner to warm up. One of the vegetables was a roasted butternut squash.

Roasted squash on Villeroy & Boch platter Country collection

I used to make this the traditional way, high heat oven and squash wrapped in foil but last night the oven was only at 325 on the convection roast setting for the lamb while we were walking on the beach for one hour during cooking. Could not have the squash burn, so I decided to do something more suitable for the long slow cooking.

Peel the squash with a potato peeler (or not), cut in half, remove the seeds, and then,  with a paring knife, criss-cross each wedge in a grid pattern and spread a mixture of one tsp butter + one tsp maple syrup or brown sugar. Rosemary, thyme, or cinnamon can be added depending on your seasoning on the roast. Leave in the oven next to the roast one hour.

The best roasted squash I ever had was done by Doug Ingram in Peterborough, ON. Not only is he a great cook, but the squash there is the best. His recipe was fairly similar I believe, maybe he will comment on that.

My friend Linda asked if these were the foot prints of the sasquatch.

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Tarte aux poireaux

Leeks  are so tasty and so healthy that, in France, cooks almost always add one or more leeks to vegetable soup. As a filling for the tart, they have an intense flavor and are a nice way to get all your helpings of greens in one treat.

Pick the leeks well, if they have a hard woody stick in the core, they have not been harvested on time, and they will not be tender. Best are the leeks with lots of white and yellow and light green with tender leaves in the centre.

They need a vigilant rinse under cold water as they are notorious for trapping sand and soil, this is easily done if you split them in halves vertically. Then, chop them in pieces about one inch long.

In your largest frying pan sauté four leeks in olive oil with one  chopped onion until the onion is barely translucent, just 2 minutes or so, otherwise the leeks will become bitter . Then add 2 cups water, salt, a cube broth. When all the liquids are completely gone, if the leeks are cooked, transfer them in a sauce blanche.

To make the sauce blanche, add a tsp flour to two tsp butter, mix with a whisk, adding 2 cups cold whole milk, or a combination of milk and cream depending on how creamy you like the leeks. When it is smooth and thick, add one egg beaten and  1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese.

Last, fill a pie shell with the sauce blanche/leek mix and sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated cheese.

Bake 45 minutes on 325.

Tip: if you have any, replace up to 1/2 cup of water with white wine.

Hint: serve this at lunch, leeks are extremely diuretic (meaning extremely healthy but likely to make you pee more).

Last word: If you added a pastry cover on top of the leeks, you would call it a flamiche, a  signature dish from the North of France.

My husband always makes the pastry for pies, quiche etc…His secret. My sister’s recipe works well, just had it when I was staying with her in France, see below.

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1 egg yolk, 2 tbsp cold water, salt. Add the butter to the flour and salt in bowl by cutting it in with 2 knives, add the egg yolk, the water, mix. Transfer to a board and roll to fit the pie dish. Make small holes in the bottom with a fork. Pre-bake 10 min in very hot oven before filling. Add filling, bake 20 minutes.

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Chocolate tea biscuit brick

This is another recipe from my childhood. Biscuits Brun had a gigantic tea biscuit factory on the outskirts of town. The Brun family  built it in 1883 primarily to make biscuits for the military. The first war made them a huge success and over the years, they started making a variety of cookies.

Of course, they had consumer contests for the best recipes including their products. This one was the children’s favorite. I guess it was because, no matter how well prepared you were, the biscuit pyramid always tried to slide down and you had to save it with your fingers. The fingers were, of course, covered with the rich chocolate cream in the process so that the lucky hero had first taste.

Make a cup of strong coffee, let it cool. In a bain marie, melt 1/2 cup butter, 100 gr dark baking chocolate, 6 tbsp icing sugar. Stir until smooth. Start stirring briskly and add slowly a mixture of one beaten egg and 1/4 cup whipping cream. When it is completely smooth, turn the heat off, but leave in the bain marie.

Pour some coffee in a small flat bottom plate. One by one, dip 6 biscuits in the coffee quickly and arrange them on a flat bottom serving  dish, forming two rows of three, side by side. Or, to make a higher pyramid, put only four biscuits at the bottom, (more risky).

Spread 1 tsp of chocolate cream on each biscuit, and start the next layer until all the biscuits are gone; repeat 5 times if you have 6 biscuits at the bottom for a total of 36 biscuits. (8 times if you have only four at the base). Spread the remaining chocolate on the sides if any. Consolidate the pyramid pushing the biscuits toward the centre, and refrigerate one hour on a flat shelf. You may want to check after 5 minutes that there is no sliding or collapsing…

Before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar or decorate.

I remember making this brick as a birthday cake many times.

Brique au chocolat for a double birthday in 2011



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Morel cream sauce on Roast Chicken

In Ontario, we used to go Morel picking in the Ganaraska Forest and come back with baskets full of the delicious spring fungi. My luck has not been good here in BC, I have not found my own spots  and no one has offered to show me yet. Mushroom pickers are funny that way. They don’t share. Well if you know where to go, I could tell you where to find chanterelles and Pine mushrooms.

Back to morels, I have been seeing them at Peppers and at the Root Cellar  for $20 a pound for a while, thought I would be forever humiliated to pay for something I never had to pay for, but finally gave in and bought just enough for a cream sauce for two. Turns out they are very light, so it only came to $3.

First job was to brush them thoroughly to remove all the sand, and make sure that there was nothing in the hollow center. The chicken is roasted*. Take it out of the pan, draining all the juices from inside the chicken in the pan. Add 1/4 cup hot water or broth, pour the deglazed juices in a cup. Carve the chicken and put it back in the roasting pan, then in the oven, now turned off.

In a thick bottom pot, sauté the morels in a tbsp olive oil about 3 minutes, add the juices from the cup and 1/2 cup 30% cream, keep stirring on low heat about 7 minutes to thicken the sauce. Last, set the chicken and vegetables on hot plates and cover the chicken with the morels and the sauce. In my family, you need to divide the morels and the sauce equally so better count them…


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Stuffed orange peppers

This is an easy thing to make, it looks amazing, the ” but” being that it takes time to make. Mostly time to cook though, not a lot of work, so a pretty good menu choice.

Most people will eat two peppers so here is what to do for four, or eight peppers. Chop one large onion and sauté until translucid in a large pot. Add two cloves garlic, 5 sausages  skinned and chopped, eight diced tomatoes, 2 chopped bunches of swiss chard, thyme, one bayleaf, hot sauce to taste, and after  5 minutes, one cup broth or water. Cook until there is no more liquid  left and add two tbsp tomato paste. Stir well.

Remove the top and the seeds from the peppers. Fill them with the stuffing, put the tops back on and finish cooking in the oven for 50 minutes at 325. Serve on a bed of rice or with roasted potatoes, probably the potatoes being the best idea since the oven will be on for 50 minutes.

Choose the kind of sausage that you like best!

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Baby white turnips

They are irresistible right now, so fresh and sweet.  Vantreight Farm grows them in Sanichton, just north of Victoria on Vancouver island and I keep buying more at the” Root Cellar” produce stand. I have had them as a side for my Duck with cherry jus, as a soup, in the Macédoine de légumes and they were amazing, but I found that I could not keep them in the pot. They kept being stolen before going to the plate and disappearing faster than chocolate. So how about making the little white ball into an appetizer? Just like cherry tomatoes or meatballs, you can eat them whole and they melt in your mouth. They are so sweet that the addiction is instant.

After removing the greens and the little tip,peel them or brush them under cold water. Blanch them until they are just done, drain.

In a frying pan, heat 2tbsp of olive oil and sauté the turnips until golden with a clove garlic. When they are ready, add a tsp white sugar and carameralize just a bit. Add a tsp balsamic and a tsp butter, throw out the garlic. Present with toothpicks, eat warm.

Hint: if you bought them with the greens still attached, save the greens for soup or something.

Note: the baby white turnip can also make excellent white turnip soup.


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Macédoine de légumes or Russian Salad

The question is : have you eaten your seven vegetables today?

The answer is likely negative unless you had Macédoine de légumes for lunch. Let me explain, the name comes from Macedonia, the country formed by a bunch of smaller states conquered by Alexander the Great and united together. In the food jargon, we are talking of a dish made with many small dices of different vegetables. It can be served hot with butter or cold in a mayonnaise dressing.

Cook separately, one cup carrots and  one cup white or pink round turnips diced, 3/4 cup green peas, 3/4 cup whole kernel corn, 1/2 cup green beans. That is my recipe but some people add potatoes or asparagus tips and the corn was not part of the traditional ingredients as it was not eaten as a vegetable in France until recently.

When all the vegetables are cooked, sauté in butter for the hot  version and mix  with a mayonnaise for the appetizer. Add a boiled egg on top and sprinkle with parsley and a sliced green onion for a fully balanced lunch. Chill!

Details: As much mayo as will fit on a tablespoon is all you need. Serve from a salad bowl or make individual portions by filling a cup and turning it over on a plate as above, and add the egg!

It is actually best to cook the vegetables whole and then dice them as they will retain more nutrients that way.

1 carrot, 2 turnip, 3 green bean, 4 peas, 5 corn, 6 green onion, 7 parsley!

That’s not counting the Kalamata olive since it is a fruit.


For a larger crowd


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Onion Quiche (really tarte à l’oignon)

I got help today. When my husband makes apple pie, there is always enough pastry left for a small quiche for lunch the next day. The dish is only 8 inches in diameter and the amounts given below for the quiche fill it completely. The pastry is his thing and I don’t know the recipe. I will have to get him on the blog some day. But if you have your own pie shell or you bought one, quiche is one of the most rewarding thing to serve. Tasty, hot, filling….Coincidently, my sister in law sent some beautiful onions from Vancouver (from Grandville island market?) and I did not have much to do all.

So,  with a sharp knife, chop two medium to large size onions fairly coarsely, (remember Julia Child  practising after school in Paris) and bring them to a nice golden color in a large frying pan with 3 tbsp olive oil (or the equivalent duck fat you might have from the Cherry duck blog*). At this point, deglaze with 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup water. Add a chicken cube, thyme, salt and pepper, a bit of Worcestershire sauce and cook gently until the onions are well done and the liquids have evaporated. You may have to cover the first 5 minutes so that you do not run out of liquid, but if you do, it is not a problem to add more water. Then you  fill the pastry with the onions, top them with a mixture of one beaten egg and 1/2 cup cream and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese. Bake for 40 minutes on 325 until golden.

Detail:The wine can be red or white. If you don’t have any, just add more water and a tbsp balsamic. There is no egg in the traditional recipe but I like the look of the tart better that way, with just one small egg.

Hint: Of course the filling can be poured into mini-shells to make appetizer quiches. Mix the onions and the egg/cream mixture before filling the shells, then sprinkle individually with cheese.


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Sweet salmon dinner in 15 minutes

Running late today and a million  excuses for it. The best one is that I got a new PC and I am still setting it up, so bear with me. That does not count as a valid excuse for not making dinner tonight in this household and I, therefore, had to come up with all the food groups on one plate in barely 15 minutes as it was also the preview of Loot at the Blue Bridge theater. (Excellent play btw).

Sweet salmon with orange peppers

So now, I will give you this “plat unique” dinner write-up. I started some Jasmine rice in boiling water, just enough so there would be none left when the rice would be cooked. About four cups to one of rice, to boil slowly in a non-stick pot and cover when almost all the water is gone  after about 10 minutes, then finish on low heat the last 5 minutes. That will give you a nice sticky rice, as creamy as a risotto. While the rice was cooking, I cut up, 4 orange peppers, 1 onion, 4 Roma tomatoes and sauteed them 5 minutes in olive oil. At this point, I added  the salmon filet, a sliced mango and a half cup of chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of hot sauce and the juice of a lime and one tbsp balsamic,  then covered the pan for another 5 minutes. The result is quite sweet although there is no sugar at all.

Whoops, 15 minutes ‘s up, make a bed of rice on a hot plate, add the vegetables and the salmon on top, add a slice of lime. Dinner for two on the table. That’s all folks!

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Duck noodle soup


Duck soup with Udon noodles


No one is sick but I  don’t like freezing much, so after the duck, comes the soup.

I still had both carcasses, the wings, and necks so I cooked them in the pressure cooker with a clove garlic to get some broth and many scrapes of meat.

No fat left at this point, so no need to degrease, just put the sliced meat  back in.

Next, I  added  the finely chopped  beet and turnip leaves  (but other greens are fine) and two green onions,  half a cup of cilantro,  1 tsp grated fresh ginger, a fresh clove, a star anise, a spoon of tomato paste,  a sprinkle of hot sauce, Japanese Udon noodles and  the leftover of jus from the Cherry duck* from yesterday to simmer five minutes.

Squeeze in half a lime’s juice when serving and use the other half to cut slices to decorate. Poor in a bowl over a handful of fresh bean sprouts.

I know, not much to it, I guess it is the cook’s day off!

*Blog June 6, 2010

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