Truffle Poutine recipe

28 Feb

A ‘posh’ twist on Poutine, the classic Québécois fast-food dish, with the addition of Italian black winter truffle.

Truffle Poutine


  • 300ml good quality beef stock
  • 200ml good quality chicken stock
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp truffle oil
  • 8g fresh black truffle
  • 1kg French fries or chips
  • 200g cheese curds
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (aka cornstarch) mixed in a little cold water

Serves: 3-4
Calories: lots


First, catch your cheese curds.  Ideally you’ll want to smuggle them from Québec, like we did. They’re pretty hard to source in the UK, so you may need to make your own curd using rennet, raw milk and yoghurt. Do not substiute normal cheese for curd – that would be an a very poor approximation. Next, find yourself a truffle. We used Mister Truffle – they deliver truffles by the gram…

The quality of the gravy is important. If you can make your own from beef or veal bones, please do so. If you can’t, or you don’t have time, find some good quality ready-made stock. We prefer Marks & Spencer’s concentrate that comes in jars.  Finally, make some chips. We cheated to test this recipe out and used McCain oven chips. Not quite the real deal, but not too bad. French fries would have been more authentic.

Cook your fries, and meanwhile make the gravy by grating about 1/3rd of the truffle into the stock, adding the balsamic and the truffle oil, then bringing it to the boil. Add the cornflour in water to the stock and stir well to prevent lumps, until it’s smooth, thick and lustrous.

Plate up the fries and scatter pieces of the cheese curd on top.  Pour over the gravy, then shave the remaining truffle on top. The hot gravy should melt the curd, but if you want to help it along then 30 seconds in the microwave doesn’t hurt.


Lemon Fairy Cakes Recipe

11 Apr

Quick and easy fairy cakes for afternoon tea, or as an anytime treat. Makes 14-16.

Lemon Fairy Cakes


  • Cake Mixture
    • 125 g butter, softened
    • 125 g  self-raising flour, sifted
    • 125 g caster sugar
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tbsp milk
    • zest of one lemon
  • Glacé icing
    • 100 g icing sugar
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    • food colouring, if desired


Pre-heat oven to 190 C.

Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer, add beaten egg in small batches, then vanilla while still mixing.  Add lemon zest.  The mixture might look slightly curdled due to the citric acid in the lemon zest but don’t worry! Then add half the amount of flour gradually while mixer is on slow speed. Add the milk. Continue adding the rest of the flour until the mixture is smooth.  If you don’t have an electric stand mixer, a hand mixer with whisk attachment is fine or quick arm work with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk.

Spoon the mixture into paper bun cases or if you are using a fairy cake tin, ensure the tin is oiled so they don’t stick.  Bake for 12 minutes or until risen and golden in colour.  Insert skewer and if it comes out clean, the cakes are done. Leave to cool on a rack before icing.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice. You could make orange flavoured by using orange juice, or in theory any other sort of flavourings/extracts.  Stir until smooth.  I made my icing purple by adding a few drops of red and blue food colouring, that’s the fun bit!

Spoon the icing over the cakes and top with decoration(s), if using.  Allow the icing to set and then remove the external paper cases (if used).  Et voila, fairy cakes that your friends and family will love.


I found that my paper cases didn’t fit the silicone tray I had, so I doubled up on the paper cases and put them on a baking sheet, which worked perfectly.  After baking you can always remove the other case.

To make icing the cakes afterwards a bit easier, don’t overfill the cases, but leave room for the cakes to rise.  Otherwise you will end up with a high dome on the cake, which makes it slightly more difficult for any topping like  a cherry or sugar flower to stay put.

Molecular Gastronomy, Belgian-style

25 Mar

The Food Snob Blog has an excellent report on the Flanders Taste Foundation‘s annual event, where 17 self-styled Flemish Primitives – mostly Michelin starred regional chefs, 15 more guest-chefs, scientists, farmers and food experts gathered for one day. This year they focused on food technology.

Some highlights for me:

  • Cold pasteurisation using extreme pressure

    “By placing shellfish in vacuum-pouches with cold water, then exposing them to six-thousand bars of pressure – such as would be felt sixty-kilometres below sea level (in actuality, an impossible depth) – ‘cold pasteurisation’ was possible. Samples of mussels, clams and cockles were circulated as evidence. More surprising than anything else however was that these were a week old: fished seven-days ago and uncooked – yet still absolutely edible.”

  • A dessert made from deconstructed perfume – in this case, Eternity by Calvin Klein

    “Perfume has so many edible ingredients – flowers, herbs, spices, so the food connection is natural”

  • Using a Nespresso machine to make a beetroot cappuccino with Alpro soymilk, freeze-dried lard, peanut and shellfish(!)

The day finished with Dominique Persoone (The Chocolate Line) and James ‘Jocky’ Petrie (The Fat Duck) “ran the audience through several dramatic displays entailing levitating chocolate disco-balls, bubble machines and an ejaculating cake.”

Chestnut Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil Recipe

17 Jan

Mushroom display at Carluccio's mushroom market
Serves: 4


  • 300g of fresh chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 25g of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked then chopped
  • 100g pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, thinly sliced
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 large onions, thinly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100ml of dry sherry
  • 100ml of brandy
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
  • 1 tbps tomato purée
  • To finish
    • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
    • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
    • 1 tbsp truffle oil


Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pan or stock pot on a low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the chestnuts and cook for another 2 minutes. Then turn the heat up slightly then add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the brandy and sherry and simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Mix the tomato puree in with the stock and the liqueur the porcini soaked in, then add it to the pan with the pinch of sugar and the vinegar. Turn down the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes. Finally, add the lemon juice and stir well.

Turn off the heat and allow it to cool a little before blending half the mixture, then returning it to the pan. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a bowl with the tarragon, parsley and a drizzle of the truffle oil on top.

Photography by Kake Pugh

Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons Wedding Dinner

20 Dec
The Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons courtyard at night

The Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons courtyard at night

Our overall impressions of the food at Le Manoir lived up to expectations of a two Michelin-starred restaurant. The service was outstanding – so unobtrusive you didn’t even notice them constantly topping up the wine glasses (which was a little dangerous!) and the waiting staff had personality.

The only criticism was that there was inconsistency in the presentation of some of the plates of food. Paul’s red mullet dish came out looking completely different to mine and the other guests, and there were inconsistencies in the sizes and pieces of partridge as well from another guest’s account. This is something that Chef Raymond Blanc would not stand for on his BBC show The Restaurant, but it did not detract from an otherwise perfect meal.

Table setting for wedding at Le Manoir

Table setting for wedding at Le Manoir

The wedding dinner menu

The wedding dinner menu

We had the honour to be invited to our friends Dominique and Gabriel’s wedding at Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin starred establishment ‘Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons’, located in the village of Great Milton in Oxfordshire. The wedding was a  10 course Menu Découverte.

Assiette apéritive, pumpkin soup

Assiette apéritive, pumpkin soup

Parfait of duck liver, spiced pear chutney, toasted country bread

Parfait of duck liver, spiced pair chutney, toasted country bread

The assiette apéritive was a light and foamy pumpkin soup, a slightly sweet yet savoury delight. It was served with a La Tour Château Grand Moulin Corbières Blanc 2008 from Languedoc.

This was followed by the first starter, the duck liver parfait – lovely and creamy with the textural contrast of the nuts, and the bread was delicious. The sweet and subtly spiced pear chutney cut through the richness of the liver.

Risotto of wild mushrooms, truffle cream

Risotto of wild mushrooms, truffle cream

Pan-fried wild Cornish gill-netted red mullet and "jig caught" squid, salted cod brandade, bouillabaisse jus

Pan-fried wild Cornish gill-netted red mullet and "jig caught" squid, salted cod brandade, bouillabaisse jus

As the risotto course was placed in front of us – risotto of wild mushroom with truffle cream – the tantalising smell of truffle wafted through the room. The flavours were intense. It was perfectly seasoned and the rice was well cooked. Bizarrely though, the slice of truffle on top seemed a bit bland! Despite this, the depth of flavour in the rice made it a winner for Paul.

The pan-fried Cornish red mullet fish course was Sarah’s favourite dish out of the entire meal. The squid had the most intense chargrilled flavour, and was extremely tender. The brandade was satisfyingly salty on top of the potato, and the mullet was cooked to perfection. The accompanying fennel acted as a suitable partner to the gorgeous fish and the bouillabaisse jus added plenty of fishy flavour in the background.

Roasted partridge, smoked mashed potatoes, caramelised salsify, redcurrant jus

Roasted partridge, smoked mashed potatoes, caramelised salsify, redcurrant jus

Farmhouse cheeses

Farmhouse cheeses

Next came the roasted partridge breast which was tender and still slightly pink, the way it should be, served with smoked mashed potato which was a real winner. Some of our fellow guests found the partridge breast a little tough, and the presentation was a bit hit and miss. Sarah’s looked as pretty as a picture but Paul’s was just piled up. Added to the fact one or two guests had shattered bone and one found shot, this was a bit sub-Michelin standard – but didn’t detract too much from the rest of the meal.

At this point the red wine – Château Le Roc Le Classique 2006 – was served. This was followed by the cheeses, which were presented beautifully – each cheese was paired with an accompanying condiment: honey, chutney, glazed pecans, etc.

"Kaffir" lime leaf and coconut tapioca, passion fruit and banana sorbet

"Kaffir" lime leaf and coconut tapioca, passion fruit and banana sorbet

Hot "Guanaja" chocolate fondant with amaretto cream, pistachio ice cream

Hot "Guanaja" chocolate fondant with amaretto cream, pistachio ice cream

The first dessert course was a Kaffir lime leaf and coconut tapioca creation – an explosion of tropical flavours which was very welcome after the heavier cheeses. The tiny soft tapioca pearls sat on top of finely diced passion fruit, and the banana sorbet was delicately placed on top in a tiny quenelle. The lime flavour from the Kaffir leaves was surprisingly powerful.

With this came a rich sweet dessert wine – Mas Amiel Maury Vintage Reserve 2006, from Roussillon.

Sarah’s winner out of the dessert courses was Raymond Blanc’s signature dish – a chocolate fondant. The beautiful, absolutely stunning mini fondant was meltingly perfect, accompanied by pistachio ice cream that tasted of real pistachios – no artificial flavours here! The amaretto creams were delicious too.

Petit fours et chocolate du Manoir

Petit fours et chocolate du Manoir

Finally, petit fours were exquisitely hand crafted and presented like a work of art, like all of the food on the menu. They were accompanied by little cups of coffee and then liqueur orders were taken. And with the fantastic wine free-flowing throughout the meal and a couple of Cognacs to finish, the evening was a complete success!

We would love to go back to sample more of the food in the actual restaurant setting, and we’d like to see more of the grounds as well as we didn’t have that opportunity on this occasion.