Coquille St Jacques with a Truffle and Sauterne Sauce
I love scallops and will always take the opportunity to eat them whenever possible – especially with the roes, which for some reason, many people discard: what an absolute travesty! Coquille St Jacques is traditionally a dish of scallops in their shells, topped with cheese and grilled until brown. This is a fantastic twist on that dish with the addition of wine and truffles – although I do cheat and use my ever-faithful Cotswold Gold truffle rapeseed oil (which I’ve blogged about before) instead of actual truffles. You can also use any white wine – as long as it’s sweet!
The recipe is taken from a magazine I love, The Good Life France, which is available as a paper copy as well as online. It was devised by a Countess, no less: Countess Simonof-Arpels who has a saffron farm in the Dordogne. I wrote about saffron and her farm in a recent blog post you can find here.
It’s a stunning looking dish that is deceptively simple. You could cook it as a starter when you have friends round or as a special meal for your loved one.
3-4 large prepared scallops per person
l large wine glass of Sauterne (or any dessert wine )
6-7 dessertspoons double cream
60 g chopped truffle or a good slug of truffle oil (eg Cotswold Gold)
2 tablespoons butter (not needed if using truffle oil – see above)
Salt and black pepper (or pink peppercorns if you have them)
Wash the scallops well in cold water. Dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the roe and put to one side.
Peel and finely chop shallots. Fry with a little butter (or truffle oil – see above) until golden brown.
Add the wine and let it simmer for 1 minute then add the cream. Reduce by a third over a low heat and leave
Take a heavy bottomed frying pan, slice scallops horizontally into 2 thinner discs. Melt the butter or heat the truffle oil and sear the scallops on each side until golden brown. Add the chopped roe then take off the heat.
Add the scallops to the prepared sauce and then add the finely chopped truffle (if using). Reheat gently for 12 minutes.
Season to taste with the salt. Serve sprinkled with a grind or two of the pink peppercorns.
Saffron is most definitely one of my favourite spices. The heady aroma as it cooks makes my mouth water.
The crimson threads are harvested from the stigma of the crocus flower. Saffron is the world’s most costly spices by weight – unsurprising as it takes it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 handpicked flowers to make just one pound of saffron.
Click on the link below to find out more about how it’s harvested in the French Dordogne in this article taken from The Good Life France Magazine.
I do love being a part of what’s happening in this corner of Cheshire that I’ve claimed as my own. It seems there’s something going on here in Nantwich nearly every week of the year but July is a particularly busy month with the International Cheese Awards, Nantwich Show and South Cheshire’s Big Day Out all happening within the space of a week. One of the big draws for the Show is the celebrity chefs who come and demonstrate.
Despite its small stature as a town, it seems Nantwich can command big names, and so it was that we hosted no fewer than four celebrity chefs at the Show on Wednesday.
The Biggest Cheese Marquee in the World
After the serious business of cheese judging and stewarding on the Tuesday, I returned the following day to work at the Nantwich Show – the largest one day agricultural show in the UK. I had been tasked with managing the Chef’s Demonstration Kitchen, sponsored by Le Gruyère.
The Demo Kitchen is housed in one of the largest marquees you’ll ever see. It’s 80,500 feet² to be precise, or nearly 7,500 metres², and this year it housed an amazing 5,685 entries for the cheese awards to make the largest cheese show in the world!
Alongside the Demo Area and the award entries were numerous trade stands offering tasting samples and selling their cheeses and other dairy products. It really is a cheese-lover’s heaven!
Despite the fantastic weather the previous day, show day dawned with torrential rain. However, the forecast promised clear skies by noon so, undeterred, I donned my sundress and sandals, knowing from experience how temperatures can rise in the cheese marquee on a hot day, despite the air conditioning.
The Celebrity Chefs
Having worked the Chef’s area area for the last couple of years, I knew that celebrity chef James Martin commands quite a following and it takes a small army to keep the (female) crowd under control! I had assembled a team to help me on the day including my son Seb and my friend Teresa plus a couple of ladies I know in Nantwich, Judy Stafford-Watson and Sarah Perris.
Sean Wilson: Former Actor Turned Chef & Cheesemaker
All the chefs cooked dishes that included cheese (naturally)! My personal favourite was Sean Wilson who made the most amazing star bread. It was a recipe inspired by Great British Bake-Off finalist Luis Troyano, who has written a recipe for a sweet hazelnut star bread, published in a new book by Lakeland. Sean did his own twist on it making it savoury with a tomato jam and his own crumbly Lancashire cheese.
Sean is such a down-to-earth, natural guy who held the audience’s attention throughout his demonstration. He also shared some great tips including using a shower cap over the bowl proving the dough – what a great idea! I’m just sorry I didn’t get a picture of it! The aromas coming from the kitchen area were amazing and the finished product looked superb. Sean was happy to hand out some of his food to the audience to taste too, and afterwards was happy to remain behind to talk to his fans.
Sean Wilson’s cheese making skills were also honoured at the Cheese Awards the previous day, when he was inducted into the Internationale Guilde des Fromagers – a top honour for cheesemakers.
James Martin Pulls in the Crowds
As in previous years, James Martin’s small army of mostly female fans was much in evidence. The die-hards arrive at least a hour before he’s due on stage, hoping to get a seat right in front of the stage and, I’m assuming, within James’ eyeline. It’s astonishing to see how ruthless these ladies can be: they will stop at nothing to ensure the best seat is theirs!
James was doing two demonstrations on the day and the auditorium was filled to capacity for both events. As with the other chefs, he cooked some gorgeous cheese dishes including a delicious looking steak with a cheese sauce. My personal favourite was this lovely looking strawberry cheesecake with a spun sugar topping. It was certainly interesting watching him spinning the sugar.
What Else Was at the Show?
Unfortunately I missed Will Holland’s demo as I took the opportunity to take a break and walk round the showground with Teresa. Remember I said at the beginning of this piece that I thought I was being clever wearing a sundress and sandals? Yes, we were cool in the marquee but our feet were decidedly muddy after we’d traipsed round a very squelchy showground for an hour or so!
That aside, we had a great time taking in the show atmosphere. There’s literally something for everyone! We took in the exhibits in the produce section, from jams and chutneys to amazing cakes and cakes made by children. There were also artworks, handicrafts and floral displays.
In the main ring there were the Cheshire Hounds and the Huntsmen, as well as Cheshire Beagles. What a beautiful sight they made. Nearby were the vintage cars looking resplendent in the sunshine. And I fell in love with the baby piglets nestling in the straw!
After a stop off at one of the food stands to buy a scrumptious cheese and mushroom crèpe, it was back to work in the Demo Area again, doing our best to hide our muddy feet from the punters!
Jonathan is a somewhat lesser known chef though he has some pretty hefty credentials earned in his years of cooking. He was crowned Roux Scholar in 1993 – the Roux Scholarship being the premier competition for chefs in the UK. He trained with Alain Ducasse at Le Louis XV Restaurant Monaco and now runs The Sandpiper Inn, in Leyburn, a country town in Wensleydale. Here he strives to serve the freshest and finest of local ingredients and makes everything in house, from bread to ice cream.
At the Nantwich Show, Jonathan was joined by a very young commis chef – his daughter! She worked alongside him helping him prepare the food and even wore a mic so she could add her two penneth to the proceedings!
The whole Demo Area was sponsored by Le Gruyère and I can’t end this piece without mentioning the lovely ladies who were managing it. Helen Daysh and Jen Willows were so friendly and helpful to us all day It was great to work alongside them.
At the end, they gave each of us a hefty slab of their best Gruyère, part of which I enjoyed in a dish I made last week – see the recipe here.
And so ended another fantastic Nantwich Show for another year. A huge thank you to the team: Teresa, Sarah and Judy – plus Sarah’s daughters and friends who provided reinforcements for James’ afternoon slot! I can’t wait to return next year with more cheesy tales!
If you read my blog post from earlier this week, you’ll know that I was stewarding at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich last week. After the judging duties are over comes the big clear up, part of which involves removing cheese in “anonymous” packaging that’s been blind judged, and replacing it with the branded version.
One of the perks of stewarding is that we are able to “facilitate the removal” of the unbranded cheeses – aka bring some home to eat! I acquired a couple of Gorgonzolas and a whole host of Brie and Camembert types and I’ve been eating them in various ways since Tuesday.
Tonight I decided to pimp up some supermarket pasta with a delicious mushroom, truffle and gorgonzola sauce. The pasta I’d bought from Aldi but in all honesty, you could use any fresh or dried pasta, plain or filled.
I’m a total sucker for truffles too and I get through this Cotswold Gold truffle rapeseed oil way too quickly.
I’m sure using a Swiss cheese with what is essentially an Italian dish probably isn’t conventional, but I love the contrasting cheesy flavours. Don’t buy Gruyère specially: just use some more gorgonzola or maybe a mixture of cheddar and parmesan.
Just be warned: this dish is definitely not one for diet days!
The ICA is the biggest cheese event in the world– right here on our doorstep! Next Tuesday we’re expecting over 5,500 cheeses to be exhibited in the biggest marquee to be erected in the country. I’m stewarding for the fourth year: my white coat is at the ready and my pencil sharpened ready to take down the judges’ comments.
It’s a great voluntary role that involves escorting two cheese judges as they assess their allocated group of cheeses. Oh, and did I mention that it involves tasting lots of cheese?
This video, filmed a couple of years ago, will give you an idea of what it’s like on the day. I spotted myself very briefly near the beginning when the stewards are being given the run down by Henry Elsby!
The place literally is abuzz with excitement and everyone involved works really hard to ensure the cheeses are all judged, notes taken, results given to the Chief Steward’s office and afterwards, that all the cheeses are moved back to their correct location in readiness for the following day’s Show.
Lunchtime at the ICA
Once the judging is finished, we all filter into a huge marquee for a fabulous lunch. It’s quite a sight, believe me: more than 1,200 people sitting down around dozens and dozens of tables, and everything runs with military precision.
Hats off to the wonderful catering team who do an absolutely fantastic job. The food is fabulous, beginning with fizz and canapés as we walk in then the most gorgeous cold buffet with meats, lots of different salads and crusty bread and butter.
Afterwards there is a huge choice of delicious desserts – and yes, you can have seconds! And of course, the International Cheese Awards would not be complete without a multitude of cheeses to eat, accompanied by the most divine crackers from Peter’s Yard who supply these wonderful crispbreads with a hole in the centre, served up on a bespoke board.
International Guild of Cheesemakers
One of the quirkiest aspects of the day is the sight of a crowd of people walking into the marquee wearing unusual robes, sashes and hats.
After the induction come the speeches from the Chair of Nantwich Show and other dignitaries and then the all important awards to individual cheesemakers and retailers.
See here fore a piece Cheshire Life magazine wrote about last year’s awards.
It’s Showtime in Nantwich!
The following day is Show Day when the showground is open to the public. Nantwich Show is the largest one-day agricultural show in the country, and wWhat an amazing spectacle it is! The cheese marquee’s crowd has been transformed from a sea of white coats to a rainbow of colours as the show-goers go from stand to stand, sampling the different cheeses.
Outside almost 500 exhibitors sell everything from crafts to tractors, whilst every local business from solicitors and banks to accountants and charities have stands and activities.
The Main Ring is where all the action happens: see over 100 Heavy Horses, watch Jason Smyth perform breathtaking stunts on his quad bike, take a look at the vintage cars and tractors, meet the Cheshire Hounds and Beagles, marvel at the skills of the Dog Protection Services and cheer on the riders in the Pony Club Relay.
Aside from all of this is the serious business of farmers showing their prized animals. There is every breed of cattle and sheep plus poultry and pigeons, plus a dog show. And in the Countryside Pursuits area you’ll find the the Horticultural Section, the Floral Art and Honey Sections and the Home Produce and Arts & Crafts Sections. It’s always worth a wander around to see who’s Victoria Sponge has come out on top or have a chat to local honey bee producers.
Chef Stars in Attendance at Nantwich Show
Finally, a little about the stars attending the show this year. I’m lucky enough to be in charge of the Chef’s Demonstration Area this year where James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland will be showing off their skills. I helped out last year and remember what a complete scrum it was when James Martin’s two shows were on … people were queuing an hour before to get ringside seats!! James’ demo is the only one that’s charged for (£5) and you can buy your tickets when you buy your show tickets.
We Brits believe that practically everything can be cured with a cup of tea. As a nation, every day we consume more than 165m cups of it! In honour of National Tea Day last Friday (21st April) I’ve decided to write about the Great British Afternoon Tea. It’s a phenomenon that has its roots in the 1840s but which has enjoyed a tremendous revival in the last few years, partly attributable to the great Mary Berry.
According to research from Barclaycard, more of us spend our wages on afternoon tea than on gym memberships … with almost half of us spending more per month on it than on takeaways!
History of the Afternoon Tea
Nineteenth-century British aristocrats made drinking tea in the afternoon fashionable. In the 1840s, evening meal was served at eight o’clock, leaving a long gap between lunch and dinner. Anna, Seventh Duchess of Bedford, became hungry at around four o’clock in the afternoon. She asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her. And so, a very British tradition was born.
This pause for tea later became a fashionable social event. During the 1880s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock. Traditional afternoon tea consists of dainty sandwiches (including, of course, cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served.
Afternoon Tea Etiquette
What about the protocol surrounding this most British of institutions? Etiquette expert Jo Bryant explains that there are some very specific dos and don’ts even when talking about Afternoon Tea. According to Jo, it is simply referred to as “tea,” not “afternoon tea” and never “high tea”.
It is correct to “have” tea, not to “take” tea. You would say “I am having tea with The Queen this afternoon.” Similarly, you have “some tea,” not “a tea,” so you would say, for example, “I would love some tea.” In social circles, these little differences matter.
And the age old question: is it scone as in “gone” or scone as in “phone”? Well according to Barclaycard’s research, over half the country – 58% – pronounce it to rhyme with gone and Jo Bryant concurs with that.
So what to wear? According to afternoontea.co.uk the dress code in most venues nowadays is relaxed ‘smart casual’. For men, trousers or smart jeans and a collared shirt and clean shoes are acceptable (definitely not sportswear or trainers). For the ladies it’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up!
The Tea Itself
Getting the tea itself right is crucial. It should be leaf tea – never teabags – served in a pot (china or silver). Alongside should be served another pot of hot water, milk, sugar and a tea strainer. Depending on personal taste and the type of tea used, the brewing time can be altered to suit. The longer the tea is brewed, the higher the level of antioxidants called flavonoids, (which research has shown to have many health benefits). Brewing time is recommended as being 3-6 minutes, otherwise the flavour of the tea is marred.
Tea is correctly served in china cups and saucers, not in a mug. Someone is nominated, or nominates themselves, as the pourer, making sure the tea strainer is used to catch the loose leaves. It is correct to pour each cup of tea one by one, passing each cup to the recipient before pouring the next rather than pouring several and handing them out.
Milk and sugar are passed round and everyone adds their own. Etiquette requires that milk is added after the tea has been poured, never before. Sugar is added last, after the milk, and the tea stirred by moving the teaspoon back and forth in an up-and-down motion making sure it doesn’t ‘clink’ against the sides of the cup, and avoiding large circular stirring motions which can be seen as inelegant. You must also remember to remove the spoon from the cup, placing it on the saucer to the side of the cup.
When you drink your tea, sit up straight and spread out the napkin on your lap. Hold your teacup by making your thumb and index finger meet in the handle: the cup is supported by the handle resting on your middle finger. Never hook your finger through or cradle the cup. And never ever raise your little finger (that’s just in the cartoons!) Bring the cup up to your mouth avoid leaning forward to drink. Take small sips and don’t slurp or blow on hot tea to cool it. The cup is put down on the saucer in between sips.
It is usual to enjoy two cups of tea; one is never enough and three too excessive.
As well as the china cups and saucers, guests should be provided with a china plate, a knife and a cake fork, plus a starched linen napkin. Jam and cream should be served in bowls, each with its own teaspoon and the butter should have its own knife.
Knives are only used to spread the jam and cream on the scones once it’s been spooned onto the side of the plate, never for cutting. Not surprisingly, the cake fork is used for eating the cakes.
Little sandwiches are usually served, cut into small squares or rectangles with the crusts removed. It is traditional to take just one sandwich and, no matter how small, eat it in more than one mouthful, so take a couple of bites.
Cakes are also served (but never cupcakes, according to another etiquette expert, William Hanson) and they should be small and mess-free. Scones are eaten with jam and cream, which is spooned onto the side of the plate. The scone is broken in half lengthways by hand (never cut with a knife) and the jam and cream spread onto it (using a knife).
The two halves of the scone should never be put back together to make a sandwich — each piece is eaten individually. Spread either the jam or the cream first onto the scone; there are various traditions in the UK but either is fine. All of these accompaniments are put down on the plate in between bites, and eaten with the fingers.
When You’ve Finished …
When it is time to leave, it is polite to leave the napkin unfolded, placed to the left of the place setting. Do not fold it up or leave it on your chair.
I LOVE Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Fish Pie. It’s lusciously creamy and tastes amazing, but definitely not one for Slimming World! So I set about making my own low-syn version and not only did I love it, but it went down well with the family too who said it was “just as good” as Jamie’s version!
This time, I used potato slices as a topping, but you could just as easily make a mashed potato topping. I’ve given ingredients/quantities for both.
INGREDIENTS 450ml milk (free if using as HexA; otherwise 3 syns per serving
75g plain flour (3.5 syns per serving)
handful parsley – finely chopped
250g smoked haddock fillets, skin removed and cut into cubes
250g salmon fillets, skin removed and cut into cubes
200g king prawns (I use Aldi frozen jumbo king prawns)
3 hard boiled eggs – quartered
100g frozen peas
Slices: 2-3 medium potatoes sliced thinly plus frylite or
4-5 medium potatoes cubed
METHOD Put the milk in a pan and start to heat slowly. Whilst the milk is still cool, tip in the plain flour and then whisk thoroughly until the flour is evenly distributed through the liquid. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens.
Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Add the peas and set aside.
Put the salmon, haddock and prawns into an oven-proof dish. Mix thoroughly to distribute fish evenly, then add the hard-boiled egg pieces, distributing them evenly amongst the fish.
Taste the sauce f or seasoning then pour over the fish and eggs.
Either cover in potato slices and fry liberally with frylite, or if topping with mash, boil the potato cubes until soft, then mash until smooth. If you like, you can use a little milk to soften it. Spread on top of the fish mixture.
Cook in oven 200°C / Gas 6 for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are browning on top. Ensure it’s piping hot before serving with plenty of free vegetables.
OK, so I’ve done it again. I’ve signed up to Slimming World for the umpteenth time. Time will tell – once again – whether I manage to lose weight, and keep it off, but in the meantime, I’ve found my cooking mojo again and am enjoying creating some tasty SW meals.
Today is the second time I’ve made this soup. It’s really hearty and tasty, very filling, it’s vegetarian (dear daughter) and it’s completely syn-free – hooray!
I’ve used 100ml milk and it makes around 8 good-sized portions, so that’s 12.5ml milk per serving – around 1/3 of a syn for the milk, if you’re not using it as a HexA.
1 large butternut squash
2 garlic cloves – chopped finely
3 medium potatoes
2 vegetable stock cubes
100ml milk (you don’t need to include this – see syn value above)
200g macaroni (or more if you like!)
tin of sweetcorn (small or large)
Prepare all the vegetables into small cubes. Spray frylite in the base of a large pan and add the vegetables and chopped garlic.
Fry gently for a good 10 minutes until soft and starting to change colour.
Pour in boiling water till it just covers the vegetables. Crumble in the stock cubes. Cover and simmer on a low heat for around 15 minutes.
Whilst the vegetables are cooking, cook the macaroni in a separate pan and drain. Set it aside.
Remove the vegetables from the heat. Puree either with a stick blender or in a food processor.
Return the pan to the heat and add the cooked macaroni and sweetcorn. Simmer for around 10 minutes or so, until the macaroni and sweetcorn are heated through.
You could use your HexA and sprinkle a serving with some cheese.