Category: Sidedish

Comfort food

My daughter Louise woke up feeling unwell yesterday – she’s having a little cold. Nothing too serious, but I wanted her to stay at home and get some rest. I could see a ray of light glowing with happiness in her eyes when she asked: ‘Will I get Chinese rice for lunch?’ It is our family tradition to have ginger fried rice when someone gets ill. It’s our equivalent of chicken noodle soup for the soul. Growing up in Hong-Kong, Chinese herbal medicine was a way of living. There was always a soup boiling in the clay pot with goji berries, ginseng, lotus seeds, red dates to name a few. Every morning my mother gave me a spoon of bird-nest soup (delicacy in Chinese cuisine filled with minerals) before going to school. Nutrition has a purpose – natural preventive medicine.

Ginger does wonder to health, and I always make sure to have a few roots at home. Whether I use it as a spice for cooking or grate it for drinks, it’s my miracle ingredient. It acts as an anti-oxidant, has powerful enzymes for digestion, eliminates toxins and purifies blood. So next time you feel tired and unwell, try this drink: Boil one liter of water in a pan. Add 3 tbsp grated fresh ginger, 3 slices of ginger, 5 tbsp honey and set aside to cool. Drink this rejuvenating ‘potion’ all day long – you will be amazed with the results. My mother always said that ginger kills the bad fire caused by inflammatory food. That ‘bad fire’ is the source to all health problems.

Louise was very happy to have the ginger fried rice served in her princess bed – pure comfort food filled with goodness. It is so easy to make and takes a few minutes to cook.


2 tbsp grated ginger root (I like to put 5 but it’s a bit strong for kids)
250 grs left-over cooked white rice
2 eggs
3 tbsp soya sauce
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 shallot (chopped finely)
3 tbsp canola or ground-nut oil

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Fry the shallots, garlic and grated ginger for two minutes. Add the rice and stir well. Make a well in the middle of the pan and break the eggs in the center. Mix the eggs and cook in a ‘scrambled eggs’ style, then mix all the ingredients together in the pan. Add soya sauce and fry for two more minutes. Serve immediately.

Bellflower ice-cubes

I am particularly fond of bellflowers. These pretty purple blue flowers can be used for culinary purposes to garnish dishes and to serve as edible flowers in salads. When I was decorating my garden cake (see garden cake post), the bellflowers were so beautiful that I had to do something more with them. I thought of making ice-cubes and was amazed by the result – the cubes looked like little jewels. Now my freezer drawers look like the ones in jewelry stores!


Organic Bellflowers (Campanula)
Ice-cube mold

Place flowers in each ice-cube mold, fill with water and place in freezer until frozen.


Gratin Dauphinois and Cigalines

I was queuing at our local butcher the other day, and overheard a woman standing next to me saying – ‘Oh, I want the same as last time because ‘Je me suis régalée’ – meaning she really ‘deliciously’ enjoyed… her cigalines. I had never heard of cigalines before, and I was so intrigued that I asked Michel the butcher what it was: ‘It’s a specialité! It’s the meat from the hip of a pork, marinated in olive oil and Provence herbs. It’s even more tender than a filet mignon!’. This was so tempting, mainly because of how the lady expressed her joy. So I bought a few pieces of ‘cigalines’ and decided to make a gratin Dauphinois (baked potatoes in cream) to accompany this discovery.

Gratin Dauphinois is a typical French dish of the Dauphiné region, consisting of sliced potatoes, milk, cream, butter, nutmeg and lots of garlic. This creamy potato ‘gratin’ is the ultimate French comfort food, filled with garlic flavors.

The combination was truly delicious. The pork meat was indeed incredibly tender, juicy and succulent. Cigalines might not be easy to find, so I would recommend asking your butcher for porc meat near the hip bone (in France we call it araignée meat), and marinade them overnight with olive oil and Provence herbs.

Ingredients: (for 6)

1.5 kg medium-sized potatoes (sliced finely 4 millimeters)
100 grs butter
900 ml milk
25 cl liquid cream
5 garlic cloves
dash of ground nutmeg
Salt & pepper


900 grs pork meat (near the hip bone as it is more tender)
160 ml olive oil
2 tbsp Provence mixed herbs
2 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper

In a bowl, marinate the pork in the olive oil and herbs and leave in fridge overnight. When ready, heat a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and fry the cigalines. As they are quite fine, a couple of minutes on each sides should be good.

For the Gratin Dauphinois:

Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees celsius.

Rub a sliced garlic all over an oven-proof pan.

Peel and slice the potatoes (approx 3-4 mm slices) and garlic (thin slices). Do not rinse the sliced potatoes as you will need to keep the starch for a better binding. Heat the milk with salt, pepper, nutmeg and when it starts boiling, lower the heat and add the sliced potatoes and garlic – cook for 10 minutes, then pour mixture into the oven-proof pan. Pour the cream, and add slivers of butter all over. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve ‘cigalines’ pork filets and the gratin Dauphinois together. Enjoy!

Potato cake with garlic and parsley

The parsley and garlic potato cake is inspired from good times at L’Ami Louis (32 Rue Vertbois, 75003 Paris), one of my favourite restaurants in Paris. L’Ami Louis is legendary for its gargantuan portions of amazing French food served with the finest old Parisian charm. I love going there, especially on Sunday nights, and have a feast. Amongst their superb menu, one dish stands out to my taste, and it’s the galette de pomme de terre (potato cake). This side dish is served with almost anything, topped with a huge amount of parsley and garlic. Pure pleasure.

Ingredients (for 2)

5 large potatoes
6 garlic cloves (sliced fine)
2 handfuls of chopped parsley
1 tbsp butter
8-10 tbsp duck fat
Salt & Pepper

Pre-heat the oven on 180° celsius.

Start frying on a medium heat the sliced potatoes with one tbsp butter for 8 minutes. Pour 8 tbps (or more if you wish and according to your taste) of the duck fat onto the potatoes and continue frying till cooked and golden. You’d be surprised at how fast it cooks with duck fat. Flip potatoes constantly. Add salt. By 20-25 minutes they should be cooked. Put potatoes in a small cake mold and press gently with a potato masher or a large spoon so the potatoes take a good shape. You don’t want to mash the potatoes, just press them. Place in the oven for 5-8 minutes.
Take the potato cake out of the oven, remove from mold and place on a serving plate. Put the chopped parsley and fried garlic on top. Serve immediately.

At L'Ami Louis.

Salade Piémontaise

The ‘salade Piémontaise’ (Piedmontese salad) sounds very Italian but is in fact a classic French bistrot recipe. I loved buying this salad at my favourite local deli in Paris called ‘Davoli’ (Rue Cler, 7ème). Their’s was excellent and we loved having saucisson sec sandwiches with baguette bread, butter and crunchy pickles.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

2 large potatoes
1 large carrot
100 grams peas
1 tomato (chopped in cubes)
A large handful of finely chopped pickles
4 eggs (hard-boiled)
4-5 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Parsley (a handful, chopped)
Salt and pepper

Boil the eggs until hard. Set aside to cool. Boil the potatoes and carrots until tender (I pre-slice them so they will cook faster). Add the frozen peas during the last minutes so they don’t get too soft. Drain. When they are ready, set aside to cool and chop the potatoes and carrots in coarse cubes.
Chop the tomato in cubes, set aside. Now you can make a small vinaigrette with the olive oil, mustard and vinegar, salt & pepper.
Toss everything together in a salad dish. Add the vinaigrette, mayonnaise, pickles and crème fraîche. The quality of the mayonnaise very important. Make sure you buy a nice rich mayonnaise, preferably sold in the fresh department. Mix well then add the boiled eggs (cut in 4), the parsley, salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated before serving. Et voilà!

Pilau Rice

This recipe for Pilau rice is a hit every time I do it. It’s easy, wholesome and delicious. Here are the ingredients:

500 grams basmati rice
4 cloves
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon salt
a good pinch of turmeric
60g Butter or Ghee
1 finely sliced onion
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 – 5 cardamom pods
litre boiling water

In a large saucepan, melt the butter or ghee and throw in the cloves, cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods.
After a few minutes add the sliced onion and turmeric. Fry gently untill the onion is slightly golden.

Now add the rice to the pan and mix well.

Add the boiling water and salt, bring it to a boil, then lower to the lowest possible heat and cover tightly for 25 minutes max. No cheating! You can’t lift the lid or the rice won’t cook well.

When cooked, you can put a clean tea-towel on the rice then cover with the lid until served.

My raita with cucumber & peppermint

Takes 5 minutes to make!

Half an onion finely chopped
1 and a half greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber chopped in small squares
A bunch of chopped peppermint leaves
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Mix all the ingredients together and served chilled.