Crepe

Crepe

The concept of eating between meals – at least in my area of France, is pretty much unknown, and indeed rather frowned upon. You eat three meals a day and in between you may, though more likely will not, take a coffee or tea, which will not come accompanied with a muffin, scone or slice of banana bread. Snacks are pretty much non-existent, and eating on the street is considered rude, unless it is …crêpe.

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Lamb Pepperonata

Lamb Pepperonata

While the vernal equinox is almost here, the villagers around me have jumped the gun setting window boxes of bulbs on the uneven stone-trimmed window ledges of their maisons, colouring the drab winter away with narcissus. In summer, these blooms will be replaced with geraniums, the quintessential French rural maison floral garnish.

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L’atelier des Saissons

L’atelier des Saissons

Very little comes between the French and their lunch. In most villages near here, come noon a siren wails, deafening any conversation you’re having and immediately, folk leave their tractors, close up their shops or put down their pens and rush to the café – it’s dejeneur!

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Duck

Duck

Here in south west France, on the tables of Gascony, le canard reigns supreme. In part that’s due to the French folks love of foie gras, as once the foie is removed, the cook has the whole bird at their disposal. In times past the whole duck was confit - cooked in its own juices before being preserved under a layer of duck fat. Now, most duck confit is prepared from the leg and thigh portion, while the breast has been exalted to steak status, all due to a local chef caught short with no food to serve.

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Mussels

Mussels

Fresh seafood arrives daily at my local supermarket, though come Friday, the quantity and selection is far greater. France holds to the tradition of fish on Fridays, and most cafés’ plat du jour menus and all school lunch menus will feature seafood.

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Olives / Aperos

Olives / Aperos

Thinking of French food, of the many ingredients that come to mind, olives are not too far down the list, which is interesting, given that the quantity of olives grown in France does not rate a mention on the International Olive Council’s list of producing countries. Olives are synonymous with Provence and the Mediterranean, but less than 1% of olives grown worldwide come from France.

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A Grain of Salt

A Grain of Salt

Salt seasons and preserves our food, but too much will ruin it. In recent years salt has gone from hum-drum finely milled table salt to flakes of finesse, so, what’s the difference?

There are three basic methods of salt production each used from ancient times.

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Gone Nuts!

Gone Nuts!

A number of nuts are prized for their flavour as oils, many of which will be stronger if the nuts have been toasted before pressing to obtain the oil.

Expensive nut oils include walnut, hazelnut, almond, and macadamia nut, all of which are usually cold pressed.

Less expensive nut oils such as peanut and coconut oil can be cold pressed or solvent extracted - these may be sub-labelled as refined oils.

Nut oils are more vulnerable to becoming oxidised or “off”, so once opened they should be kept refrigerated. They are also affected by light and heat, so look for nut oils sold in coloured bottles and check the long expiry date as this is a marker of freshness for you.

Due to their cost, use sparingly where flavour matters.

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The Big Apple

The Big Apple

As legends go, the apple appears regularly and it’s often associated with sex! It got Adam and Eve into all sorts of trouble, was considered an aphrodisiac for the Romans and Greeks and a symbol of fertility for the Celts!

When talking apples, New Zealand is considered a world power on creating new breeds . This season look for these new varieties.


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Japanese Noodles

Japanese Noodles

Japanese noodles have slipped into kiwi cuisine with ease, their chewy texture, so different from pasta or egg noodles and their flavours which vary widely between the different types – soba, udon, ramen, somen or cha soba have become pantry staples for many. Noodles are low in salt and fat and high in complex carbohydrates.

In Japan menrui is the collective name given for noodles; when a particular style of noodle is being referred to, it is shortened to men; hence ramen and somen. Their history dates way back to the 700sAD and the original menrui were more like sweet dumplings. Culinary evolution was gradual until dumplings became noodles. Unlike China, noodles in Japan have never been made from rice, rather buckwheat, which grew in cold climates where rice could not, and more recently wheat.

In Japan noodles are the ultimate in fast food, being served simply freshly steamed, swimming in a fragrant broth, or cold as a salad and often as a snack. For convenience they come dry, cooked and long-life packaged, or cooked and fresh chilled, the last two only requiring re-heating.

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Get Pickled on Onions

Get Pickled on Onions

Crunchy, sweet, sharp and spicy, pickled onions, once the mainstay of the summer picnic table, can have a new twist when you make them with baby red onions.

Pickled foods, such as pickled onions, gherkins or garlic are preserved when surrounded in a bath of acid , in this case vinegar, which discourages microbial (nasties)growth. The pickling liquid can be straight out vinegar - malt, cider, apple or fruit vinegar, or it can be spiced ad flavoured using whole spices. Ground spices will make the vinegar cloudy and give a dusty paste-like feel in the mouth when being eaten.


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Thai Curry Pastes

Thai Curry Pastes

Unlike many Asian counties Thailand's cuisine has not be influenced by westerners - it's the only SE Asian country to have not been colonized. In addition Thailand's geography featuring long coastlines, mountains, drylands and lush pastures intertwined with many rivers has given rise to a truly diverse cuisine. The colourful curry pastes in Thailand's food cabinet are a lively combination of spices, herbs and flavourings, though all include chillies. Yes you can make them from scratch but finding a favourite brand, will quickly and easily transform simple ingredients into spectacular dishes. Here's quick overview

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