Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wine (well food) and roses

When we rebuilt (and by that I mean paid othesr to do it) our front wall we lost the plants and trees that had been planted over the years and the most missed was an old Daphne bush in that far right corner.

Despite all sorts of entreaties to the builders, their subbies didn't get the request and it along with an olive tree gifted to us few years earlier they all finished up bare rooted and dieing on the back lawn.

So once the wall was back in place and the soil back filled we had a virgin garden to re-plant. Year one, the veges went in, leeks, cabbages, lettuce and spinach in the main. But once that was done, what next?

Zoe said - white roses please, so here we go.  And job one, prepare the ground, and lay out the planting plan.

And in they go, and into my fingers go the thorns (it takes me two weeks to get one of them out of my finger) damn things. Anyway, as I go I also plant out two varieties of strawberries between the roses so as to provide Bella with berries when she comes over to visit.

And to make sure all grows nicely the irrigation system is being installed around the roses and to cover the berries as well.

As of today - how do they look, well pretty good so far (and I ate the first berries today - Chandler variety)

and the whites are just about there

and room in the far corner for the standard yellow that's been pining away in the container in the backyard - root bound and no matter how much water we pumped into it, always looking dry, with a little love and irrigation hopefully this will also kick back into bloom.

Also added two Guatemalan Guava plants between the roses, according to the wording on the plants they have lots of yummy little berries that are good to eat straight from the plant or even better as jam or as a compote, can't wait.

cheers all

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The wonderful world of the Internet allows for immediate access to such a wide number of ways to communicate and share information no matter where in the world the various parties are - yesterday I saw a Facebook post from a friend Francoise who while very French is currently residing in London.

Zoe and I met Francoise when she worked here in Wellington for a NZ wine /beverage company and where able to visit her in a small village near Lyon about 8 years back when she worked at a family winery in Tournon sur Rhone.

So when I saw her request for a cassoulet recipe it was a simple thing to ask what version she wanted and offer several from my recipe files.

[to deliver a Gluten Free end result all you need to do is make sure the sausage is GF and replace the breadcrumbs with either a pre-prepared GF option (several versions available here in NZ) or with rice crumbs or as you're already going to some effort bake a GF loaf for the purpose)

First option is the one below, the full on, throw everything into the pot option, this is a big production item, a long shopping list and a number of steps to follow, but set the time aside and just relax into it and the end result is very well worth it.

The ultimate cassoulet

Serves 8 / Preparation time - overnight / Cooking time over - 2 hours


300g/10oz dried white haricot beans, soaked in cold water overnight
1 onion, studded with a few cloves
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, a few sprigs each of thyme and flat leaf parsley and a 7.5cm/3in celery stick, tied together)
4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 Toulouse sausages
4 duck legs
350g/12oz belly pork rashers, skinned and diced
2 tbsp goose or duck fat (or oil)
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 large carrot, chopped roughly
2 celery sticks, chopped roughly
350g/12oz lamb neck fillet, diced
350g/12oz boneless casserole pork, diced
290ml/½ pint dry white wine
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes + 1 tbsp tomato puree
2 heaped tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper

A mixed green salad with mustard vinaigrette, to serve

For the topping:

1 large day-old baguette
2 fat garlic cloves, halved
4 tbsp goose or duck fat (or half butter, half oil)
2 heaped tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh thyme, chopped


1. Drain and rinse the beans, tip into a large pan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off the scum, then add the studded onion, the bouquet garni, half the garlic and lots of pepper. Stir, half cover and boil for 30 minutes more. Stir occasionally and top up with water when necessary.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Prick the duck all over with a fork and put on a rack in a roasting tin. Roast for 30 minutes, then remove and set aside. Lower the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.

3. When the beans have been cooking for 1 hour, tip them into a sieve, discard the onion and bouquet garni. Set sausages aside.

4. Put the belly pork in a 4l/7pt flameproof dish and heat gently until the fat runs, then increase the heat and fry until just crispy. Add the poultry fat and heat until sizzling, and then add the onion, carrot, celery and remaining garlic, scraping up the bits from the base. Fry over a gentle heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate.

5. Increase the heat and add the lamb. Stir fry until coloured on all sides, then transfer to the plate and repeat with the pork. Tip the ingredients from the plate back into the dish. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs, then season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add the haricot beans and 850ml/1½pt water to the dish and bring to the boil. Stir, then lower the heat so the liquid is just simmering. Keep the mixture in the same dish to cook or transfer it to an earthenware dish.

7. Remove the skin from the duck, and then tuck the duck legs into the liquid. Peel off the sausage skins, slice the sausage meat thickly on the diagonal and add to the dish.

8. Cover the dish and bake for 1 hour, stirring once. Stir, and then cook uncovered for a further 1-1½ hours, stirring halfway, until the meat is really tender and the sauce is thickened. Take the dish out of the oven and remove the duck legs.

Strip the meat from the bones (it will fall off easily) and return the meat to the dish. Stir and add a little water, if necessary. Season if necessary, then return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes until all the meat and beans are very tender.

9. Cut the crusts off the baguette, tear the bread into pieces and put in a food processor. Add the garlic and chop into coarse crumbs (you should have about 200g/8oz).

Heat the fat in a large frying pan until sizzling, then stir fry the breadcrumbs and garlic over a moderate to high heat for 7-8 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the heat, toss in the herbs and stir to mix, then season well with salt and pepper.

10. Give the cassoulet a good stir. The consistency should be quite thick, but not stodgy. If you prefer it slightly runnier, add a little water.

Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary, then sprinkle the topping over the surface in a thick even layer. Serve in warm bowls with a green salad dressed in mustard vinaigrette.

Option two - a much shorter shopping list and the end result while still very good has less work involved and a very much shorter shopping list.

Duck Cassoulet

Serves 4 (double the ingredients for a larger group)

Duck, pork and flageolet beans cooked slowly in a garlicky tomato broth is a perfect winter supper. The recipe uses duck legs that have been confited or cooked slowly in duck fat so you need a source for those or to have laid some down yourself.

If you want to use fresh duck legs, cook them at the start with the ribs.

This is a total meal served with hot sourdough or crusty bread, or serve some crisp French beans parboiled and quickly fried with olive oil and garlic.

A green salad with a sharp vinaigrette also works well against the richness of the main dish

4tbsp olive oil
4 belly pork ribs
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
1l brown chicken stock
6 plum tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
225g cooked flageolet beans
4 confit duck legs
2-3tbsp good pesto or 3-4tbsp freshly chopped basil


Heat the oil in large metal casserole or pan, add the belly pork and cook until golden brown.

Season with pepper, then add the onion, garlic, celery and leek, and sauté for a few mins until the onion is translucent.

Add the stock and tomatoes, bring to the boil and add the duck. Cover and simmer for 90 min.

Add the beans and cook for another 30 min. Scatter with the fresh basil or pesto and serve.

What's next?

So with the two options - which option will Francoise choose? (I have my guess, but will she surprise me?)

OK Francoise, over to you, I'll expect photos and commentary from you and the intended guests as to the end result, I look forward to all of that.

Bon Appetite! (in my worst Julia accent)