Discovering new flavours

Our cooking get-togethers are still on the theme of ‘take one cookbook and do as many recipes as you can’.  The last time we met up, the book for the day was Siriana by Sabrina Ghayour.  It’s a book full of delicious sounding recipes, and we prepared three:

The above links are to various sites where you can find the recipes.  You could of course buy your own copy of Siriana.  I’ve not yet added the book to my bookshelf, but I feel that it may not be all that long… 🙂

The scallop dish was pretty easy to prepare.  A mandolin slicer made very short work of shaving the fennel into wafer-thin slices!

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The shaved fennel was mixed with lemon juice and olive oil, and set aside while we made a dressing with honey, vinegar, saffron, orange juice, olive oil and a little lime juice.

The scallops were looking beautifully plump!


Once we were ready to sit down for our starter, the scallops were seared on both sides in a very hot frying pan.  When they were just done, we arranged some of the dressed fennel and a few scallops on each plate, and drizzled over the prepared dressing – et voila!!  Delicious and simple to prepare at the same time!


The Bandari monkfish tails were prepared for our main course. There was one monkfish tail per person.


To prepare this dish, the monkfish tails were marinated with a spice paste, which contained turmeric, curry powder, cumin, ground coriander seeds, cinnamon, garlic, fresh ginger, coriander leaves, dill weed, Greek yoghurt, and lime juice.  Quite a list of ingredients!!

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Sabrina Ghayour recommended that a shirazi salad would be perfect to accompany the fish, so while the monkfish tails were marinating, we prepared that.


The shirazi salad is a colourful mixture of fresh vegetables: cucumber, tomato and red onion, all cut into small pieces. Here’s the start of it.


The salad is very simply dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Before serving, it is sprinkled with sumac (a sour tasting seed) and pomegranate seeds.  Here’s  our finished salad:


The monkfish tails were simply fried with a little olive oil…


…and the finished dish tasted every bit as good as it looked!


Originally we had planned to have our get together on Shrove Tuesday, also called pancake day in Britain, and so we had chosen crepes suzette for the dessert course.  Unfortunately our get-together had to be postponed,  but we stuck with the crepes suzette for dessert all the same.


Wwe used Gordon Ramsay’s recipe (you can find it here), but we didn’t quite follow his method!  First we made a stack of crepes (thin pancakes), which were covered in plastic wrap, to stop them from drying out.  The oranges were filleted (the peel cut away, and the segments cut from the membranes), and some squeezed for juice.  The sugar was caramelized in a stainless steel pan (please don’t ever use a non-stick pan for that purpose, the temperature is too high for the non-stick coating), and once it was a nice caramel colour, grand marnier liqueur was added and “flamed”.  Careful, don’t singe your eyebrows!  The orange juice was added next, and the whole left to bubble for a moment.  Next the crepes were dipped into this sauce, one after the other, and each crepe folded into four.  They were then arranged on the plates, and decorated with the orange segments.  The crepes suzette were totally delicious!  I wish there had been more!!


Do you have a favourite cookbook or recipe you return to time and time again??  Do let me know!!


Sunshine after rain

This week I had planned to write about the international kayaking competition that was to be held in Reals this past weekend.  It didn’t happen.  What happened was lots of rain on Saturday and the river swelled and swirled and turned into a raging torrent.  So for safety’s sake the event was cancelled.  I did go on Sunday morning, and there were a few crazy guys in their kayaks going over the biggest of roaring rapids, having fun.  Just a short ride and out they came again and walked 100 yards upstream to do it again.  A bit like children on a slide 🙂


The trees on the left are usually not in the water, by the way!

But fear not, the rain subsided as the weekend ended, and all around St Chinian shone lovely and bright.  And so I thought I would take you on a springtime walk, and perhaps we’ll go for dinner afterwards?  Imagine the birds starting to sing, the way they do, tentatively, when spring starts.  And with all the rain we’ve had, the wildflowers are out in profusion!


Here is a bee on what I think is a dead nettle – great bee-food in early spring!



Unfortunately I do not know the names of the two other plants – weeds to some and wildflowers to others.  Somewhere I read that a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place.  Well then, I have lots of plants in the wrong place in my potager! 🙂


A little further along is this blowsy blossom – a nectarine tree, flowering its heart out!


Daffodils are called “Osterglocken” – Easter Bells in German – very apt as they generally flower around Easter.


And there are a few tulips out already too….

Dinner tonight is at Restaurant de l’Orb in Cessenon sur Orb.  The restaurant changed hands about 18 months ago, and is now run by Stephane, the French chef, and Patricia, his lovely Belgian wife, who looks after guests in the dining room.  The welcome will be warm, as it has been on previous occasions, and the service will be attentive.  Stephane changes his menu on a regular basis, so we might not be able to have what I photographed the last time…  A few things are firm favourites with the guests, so they generally stay on the menu throughout the year;  the pate is one of those favourites and it’s delicious.  Be sure to have had a light lunch if you’re going!


There were two other starters last time – a mouse of prawns served hot, and the other was leeks in a creamy sauce on puff pastry.



They also do a wicked version of a Croque Monsieur with foie gras and morels, not pictured, just to pique your interest…  My main course was scallops and prawns with a very delicate sauce.


Then there were the other main courses – filet of beef with a tarragon sauce, and filet of salmon with a savoury sabayon.  And look at the vegetables, almost too good to eat!




Ready for your dessert?  You can play it safe and go for ice cream or sorbets; they are very good and always nicely presented.  Or if you still have room (trust me, you’ll find room for the desserts!) you can go for something like the chestnut mousse filled crepe, or the crunchy apple pudding/muffin.  Bonne degustation!!




Hope you all have a great Easter weekend!