Angolan breakfast of champions

January 30, 2010 § 4 Comments

The African Cup of Nations tournament reaches a climax this weekend with the final being contested on Sunday 31 January 2010. Briefly, the spotlight will shine on Luanda, Angola’s capital when Ghana and Egypt compete for the trophy.  What might the teams eat for breakfast beforehand?  We can offer the following menu based on an Angolan breakfast we prepared at home a couple of weeks ago.

Our chosen menu was funje, a traditional cassava porridge; tropical fruit; pão burro literally “donkey bread” a Portuguese influenced recipe reflecting Angola’s  colonial past; quince and plum preserves again reflecting the Portuguese history; and finally, coffee to drink.

I talk about Angola’s colonial past but it was as recently as 1975 that Angola achieved independence from Portugal.  Civil war lasting until 2002 broke out almost immediately, a civil war that didn’t really impinge very much on our consciousness over here.  I remember with some embarrassment being questioned by a sharp civil service interviewer about my views on the conflict in Angola when I attempted to join the foreign office some years ago now.  As a callow twenty year old I didn’t have much to say and stared back at him blankly.  No, I didn’t get the job…

In terms of geography, Angola sits just above Namibia on the west coast of southern Africa. Huge numbers of square miles or kilometres become  meaningless to me after a certain size: at 481,000 square miles, Angola is very roughly twice the size of France (or twice the size of Texas for those with a more transatlantic viewpoint). I took a dreamy trip along Angola’s 1,000 mile long Atlantic coastline, courtesy of Google Earth – seemingly endless sandy beaches with Atlantic breakers hitting the shore. There must be potential for Angola to become a cult surfing destination.  Sure enough, go to YouTube and you will find mesmeric scenes like this one.  Those in the know would call it a left point break:

How did I come up with the breakfast menu?  Cassava flour is a staple food across West Africa.  The name for this in Angola is funje or fufu.  This is most frequently turned into a porridge.  I found the instructions for making funje porridge here:

They read as follows:

Recipe for funje from Angola

“What you need for the traditional method (of preparing funje) is a deep pan and a funje stick. This is a long-handled stout wooden spoonwith a flattened oar-like blade (typically it’s 35cm or longer). Almost every West African household has one of these (we have my wife’s family version). For perfect funje you need twice the volume of water to the amount of cassava flour.

Bring the water to a boil and as soon as it’s boiling remove from the flame, sit on the floor, wrap in a cloth and hold steady with your feet. Add all the cassava flour in one go and beat energetically with the funje stick. You must beat very hard and fast as the mixture thickens rapidly and if you do not beat thoroughly you will end-up with lumps and hard ‘kernels’ rather than a smooth dough-like porridge.”

My first problem was how to get hold of the funje flour itself.  Fortunately, Manchester is a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis and I quickly located a specialist African grocery, Global Africa, based in Hulme market hall (just next to Asda). I give contact details below. The two African guys running the shop viewed me with some suspicion as I walked in.  Any hopes I might have had about engaging them in conversation about the tropics and picking up some recipe tips were quickly dashed.  Our exchange was monosyllabic but I did end up with what I was looking for – a 3kg bag of fufu, the cheerfully packaged Tropical Sun brand.

This is how I interpreted the recipe instructions, swapping funje stick for a conventional wooden spoon:

I am sorry to report that my first attempt at funje was lumpy and full of the hard pellets that the above instructions tell you to avoid. It would be an understatement to say that this was not one of my favourite breakfast foods.  It had a distinctly challenging slippery, gelatinous consistency and the taste was bland but with a not altogether appealing chemical astringency.  I managed a teaspoonful but then I must sheepishly report that I put the rest on our compost heap.

I read about pão burro (literally donkey bread) being a traditional Angolan food but internet searches revealed no recipes, just references to a funky sounding Angolan rapper who has adopted this as his stage name.  I came up with a rustic bread recipe, half wholemeal, half white flour which is my interpretation of what something called donkey bread might taste like.  To go with it, I thought quince and plum conserves (from pukka English jam makers Tiptree) had the Portuguese influence I was looking to incorporate.

Angola does produce tropical fruit and some coffee, but there’s little or no chance of finding Angolan exports over here so we made do with a Ghanaian pineapple, some bananas of indeterminate origin and a guava (which being South American isn’t in fact at all authentic!) plus our usual house coffee blend.  Here’s the finished breakfast ready to be served.

I could just about imagine myself at a beachside café in Luanda eating this kind of thing…

May the best team win on Sunday!

Contact details

Global Africa
78 Hulme High Street,
M15 5JP

Tel 0161 232 9797

Open season for Haggis – ideas for a Burns supper

January 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today is 25 January, Robert Burns’ birthday which means that the traditional Burns supper of haggis, neeps, tatties (mashed swede and mashed potatoes)and of course plenty of Scotch whisky will be served up to Scots both at home and abroad tonight.  We Sassenachs got in on the act early this year, on Saturday night in fact, when we were invited to a Burns supper at nearby Manchester Grammar School.

You might well ask why would anyone voluntarily go and spend an evening eating school dinners?  In fact the school did us proud and produced food of a high standard. Pride of place went to a splendidly proportioned haggis (Macsweens of course – I did check with the catering manager!) which was preceded by a bagpiper and ceremonially stabbed with the Skean dhu/Sgian Dubh (the dagger a Scotsman tucks into his sock).  You can clearly see the victim’s entry and exit wounds…

I realise this picture may not look appealing to those of a nervous disposition but, honestly, it was delicious.

Eating my meal on Saturday night, it occurred to me that hosting a Burns supper at home would be a fun evening and the food would be pretty straightforward.  To start, the obvious choice would be Scottish smoked salmon.  You could serve this as a canapé beforehand on tiny oatcakes and dispense with a starter if that suited.  Smoked venison too with redcurrant or, better still, rowanberry jelly would be good if you could source some.  A smoked loch trout or kipper pâté with oatcakes would be another option.  Don’t turn your nose up at kipper pâté – it may not sound glamorous but I can still remember some that I ate in Tiddy Dol’s (sadly now closed) restaurant in Mayfair some 20 years ago – velvety smooth and absolutely delicious with just a hint of  a peaty malt whisky in the background.

The main course would obviously be a haggis (there are vegetarian versions too to cater for all tastes) and the aforementioned neeps and tatties – these can be prepped in advance and heated through when you are ready to serve.  A little whisky poured over the haggis is all the sauce you need but you could serve a little gravy (or jus as restaurants insist on calling it) if you liked.  I like Francis Bissell’s idea from her book “Entertaining” of serving haggis Parmentier, a Scottish take on the bistro classic hachis Parmentier (a French version of shepherd’s pie). Cooked haggis, carefully spooned out of its casing forms the based of the dish with a smooth mixture of mashed potato and swede forming the top. Some finely shredded curly Scots  kale, steamed for just a minute or two to retain its vibrant greenness, would make a good accompaniment.

Pudding is a little bit of a challenge given the quantity of food you will already have consumed.  Cranachan (a combination of whipped cream, toasted oatmeal, whisky, heather honey and raspberries) would be traditionally Scottish and you could use very acceptable frozen Scottish raspberries.  If you wanted something very light and refreshing then a raspberry water ice or sorbet would fit the bill.  An individual baked or steamed pudding made with whisky and Dundee marmalade would be good for traditional pudding lovers.  My final pudding thoughts would be a Caledonian ice cream as served at Glasgow’s Ubiquitous Chip.  This is a witty take on a French style praline ice cream with frugal toasted oatmeal taking the place of the usual almonds.  You could serve this with a sauce of melted Mars bars – a nod to that other most traditional of Scots puddings, the deep-fried Mars bar….

I also give a recipe for an oatmeal shortbread biscuit as featured in the BBC Great British Menu programme.  Chef Jeremy Lee turned them into a neat stack with cream and raspberries but they are a good crisp biscuit either to eat on their own or to  provide a contrasting texture to a creamy pudding.

Recipe for Caledonian ice cream

This is a recipe from Glasgow’s Ubiquitous Chip restaurant brought to the masses by Delia Smith in her Summer Collection book.  Serves 8.  I’ve tried this recipe at home and it works well with our without an ice cream maker.


For the caramelised oatmeal

3 oz (75g) caster sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 oz (50g) pinhead oatmeal

For the syrup

4 oz (110g) caster sugar
4 tablespoons water

For the ice cream

1 pint whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start by making the caramelised oatmeal. Put the caster sugar and water into a small saucepan over a low heat and leave it for 5 minutes. Then take a medium sized frying pan, place it on a medium heat and when the pan is hot, add the oatmeal and swirl it round the pan constantly so that it browns evenly – which it will do in about 5 minutes. Remove the oatmeal to a plate to prevent it becoming over-brown. By now the sugar in the saucepan will have dissolved so you can turn the heat up and let it boil. Watch it very closely until it becomes a rich brown caramel colour. Stir in the toasted oatmeal, remove from the heat and quickly pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Put to one side to get cold and firm (about 15 minutes).  Then take off small pieces at a time and pound them in a pestle and mortar until they are the size of large salt crystals (you could do this carefully in a food processor too but don’t overdo it and reduce it to too fine a powder).  Put to one side in an airtight container until you are ready to make the ice cream.

To make the sugar syrup, measure the sugar and water into a small saucepan, place it over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved – about 5 minutes. Then remove from the heat and allow to become completely cold.

To make the ice cream, pour the cold syrup into a mixing bowl along with the whipping cream and vanilla extract.  Whisk with an electric whisk or mixer until the mixture just begins to thicken and hold its shape. Then pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions until firm but still pliable.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze the mixture until firm but pliable in a large plastic container, beating vigorously every half hour or so with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the oatmeal mixture, fold it in then spoon the ice cream into a loaf tin 7 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.  Cover with a double thickness of foil and freeze until needed.

To serve, remove from the freezer to the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you need it. Dip the base and sides of the loaf tin into hot water for 10 seconds or so, loosen round the edges with a palette knife, then turn onto a plate.  Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut into neat slices.

Recipe for almond shortbread thins

The original recipe title is for raspberry shortcake but I think this is confusing as shortcake to me means the American scone type soft cake.  It comes from The Great British Menu Cookbook accompanying the BBC TV series of the same name.  This recipe was cooked by chef Jeremy Lee.  Jeremy is a native Scot who is the longstanding head chef at London’s Blueprint café.  I have tried this recipe at home and it does work – the biscuits are delicious. It makes about 20 biscuits from memory (recipe says serves 4).


125g soft unsalted butter
40g caster sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
40g best quality blanched almonds such as Marcona ground in a food processor quite fine but still with some texture
40 g toasted white breadcrumbs (from 70g bread chopped up, crusts on, baked at 150 degrees C/fan 130 degrees C/gas mark 2 for 30 minutes or until lightly toasted then processed to crumbs in a food processor)

To serve

250 ml double cream, softly whipped; a great bowl of raspberries, a small bowl of caster sugar, a little icing sugar for sifting

Beat the butter and sugar together well until pale. Pop in the orange zest and beat very well. Add the flour, ground almonds and breadcrumbs, and mix thoroughly into a soft dough.

Cut a large piece of baking parchment. Place the dough at one end of the paper, then roll it in the paper to make a sausage shape roughly 5cm in diameter. Seal the sausage in the paper and chill for a few hours or ideally overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/fan 150 degrees C/gas mark 3.  Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Cut the roll of dough into 3mm thick slices (about the thickness of a UK £1 coin) and lay them on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool and become crisp.

You can eat them as they are or sandwich 3 of them together with raspberries and whipped cream to form a neat stack for pudding.

Producer/other details

Macsween’s haggis

Stockan and Garden oatcakes from Orkney

Glasgow’s Ubiquitous Chip restaurant

Please do leave a comment if you have Burns supper experiences or Scottish recipe ideas to share

Comforting casseroles part 2: beef

January 24, 2010 § 2 Comments

The snow has melted here in but the weather outside remains wintry in a dank Mancunian kind of way so casseroles are still the order of the day.  I started off thinking about pork earlier in the month:

I’ve now moved on to beef. I made a carbonnade last week and for the first time ever finished it off properly with toasted bread on top -it worked a treat and wasn’t fiddly at all as I had supposed it might be. The end result was I suppose a Belgian take on the familiar stew and dumplings, deeply savoury with the beer adding an extra dimension to the taste.

Here’s the finished dish:

This is what it looked like before the addition of the bread:

And here is the mise en place:

The origins of the word carbonnade are somewhat confusing. A couple of web sources I checked out suggested the word meant (i) something to do with grilling the meat or (ii) had a Spanish derivation. Neither of these seem immediately plausible to me.  Though on reflection, given that Spain controlled the Netherlands (in the wider sense encompassing modern day Belgium) for 150 years or so beginning in the mid sixteenth century, maybe there is something in the Spanish connection.  My own conjecture is that, like spaghetti carbonara being a hearty meal for Roman charcoal burners, this could possibly be a favourite dish of Belgian coal miners.

This particular version comes from Leith’s cookery bible.When I made this a couple of weeks ago there was still snow on the ground so I had to do my shopping on foot at our local Marks & Spencers. I bought a couple of pieces of topside  which worked a treat.  Topside is often sold as a roasting joint but invariably disappoints when served as roast beef. The beer was a dark ale from Adnams of Suffolk, Marks and Spencers own label but uncannily like an Adnams Broadside.

I give a second beef recipe too, a daube from Julia Child’s book.  I did think about quoting her Boeuf Bourgignon recipe instead which is really good but a little involved requiring separate sautéing of the the component parts.  Let’s face it, sometimes all we have time for is to throw a few things on the pot and leave the oven to work its magic over the next 3 hours.  If you don’t have much time for preparation then this daube recipe is for you.

Recipe for carbonnade of beef

This recipe which serves 4 comes from Leith’s cookery bible.  As ever, I can’t leave a recipe alone and so have tweaked one or two of the ingredients to suit what I tend to keep in the cupboard.  I’d recommend making a double quantity and stashing the other half (minus the French bread topping) in the freezer.


675g/1 1/2lb chuck steak (or topside which I used successfully) trimmed weight
1 tablespoon beef dripping (in fact I used some goose fat leftover from Christmas)
2-3 onions thinly sliced
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 teaspoons muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons plain flour
435 ml/3/4 pint brown ale
145 ml/1/4 pint brown stock or vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
pinch chopped fresh or dried thyme
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

8 slices French bread or  Ciabatta type loaf spread thickly with Dijon mustard

Cut the beef into small steaks, cutting across the grain of the meat. Heat half of the dripping or oil in a large frying pan and fry the steaks a few at a time until browned.  Put them into an ovenproof lidded casserole (Le Creuset type ideal) as they are done. If the bottom of the pan becomes very dark or too dry, put in a little water, deglaze and pour over the meat.  Heat up  a little more dripping or oil and continue to brown the meat.  Once the meat is done, deglaze the pan, add the remaining dripping or oil and fry the onions slowly (you may need a little extra dripping at this stage depending on how much you used to brown the meat). When the onions begin to brown, add the garlic and sugar and continue to cook for a further minute or two until nicely brown.

Stir in the flour and cook for a further minute stirring as you do so.  Remove the heat and pour in the brown ale and stock.

Return to the heat and bring slowly to the boil, then simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.  Pour into the casserole and add the vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Cover and bring to simmering point then cook in a preheated oven (150 degrees C/300 degrees F/gas mark 2) for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Remove the casserole from the oven and increase the heat to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F/gas mark 6.  Place the slices of bread, mustard-side up, on tope of the stew.  They will absorb the flavoursome fat on the top.  Return the casserole, lid off, to the oven until the bread is toasted and golden-brown (5-10 minutes).

Recipe for daube de boeuf à la Provençale

From  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.  This recipe serves 6 but I find the quantities tend to be on the generous side – this would imply 8oz meat per person whereas the carbonnade recipe above allows 6oz per person which is about right for me.  Another good recipe for doubling up and freezing.

Recommended cuts of beef for the daube are rump, chuck, thick flank, topside or silverside.


3lb lean stewing steak cut into 2 1/2 inch squares, 1 inch thick
1/2 pint red wine
1/8 pint brandy
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 lb thinly sliced onions
1/2 lb thinly sliced carrots
1/2 lb bacon lardons
6 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes peeled seeded juiced and chopped or 2 400g/14oz tins tomatoes, chopped or 1 pint passata
approximately 4oz sifted  plain flour on a plate for coating the beef
1/2 to 3/4 pint beef stock (or water or additional red wine)

For the Provençal seasoning

10 flat anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil either from the anchovy tin and/or plain
2 cloves mashed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place the beef in a bowl and mix with the wine, brandy, olive oil, seasonings. herbs and vegetables.  Cover and marinate for at least 3 hours, stirring every so often. Remove the beef from marinade and drain through a sieve.  Reserve both the vegetables and the marinade liquid.

Line the bottom of a large ovenproof lidded casserole (again, Le Creuset type is perfect) with one third f lardons. Strew one third of the marinade vegetables and mushrooms over them then add a third of the tomatoes. Piece by piece, roll the beef in the flour and shake off the excess. Place closely together in a layer over the vegetables.  Continue with another layer of bacon and vegetables, then a second layer of beef.  Conclude with a final layer of bacon and vegetables.

Pour in the marinade liquid and enough stock (or water or wine) to almost cover the contents of the casserole.  Bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover tightly and place in the lower part of an oven preheated to 150 degrees C/325 degrees F/gas mark 2.  Regulate the heat so that the liquid simmers slowly for 3 to 4 hours.  The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the daube is cooking, prepare the Provençal seasoning. Using a fork, mash the anchovies and capers to a paste in a bowl. Beat in the other ingredients. After the daube has cooked for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, remove it from the oven and skim off the fat.  Pour on the Provençal seasoning mixture and baste the beef with the cooking juices from the casserole. Cover and return to the oven for a final half hour of cooking.

Serve with noodles or plain boiled potatoes , a green salad or vegetable and of course a glass of your favourite wine.

Do you have a great beef casserole recipe or a fresh insight into why a carbonnade is so named?  If so, please leave a comment.

Swiss food in London

January 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

After the New Year’s Eve feast (see previous post) it was our turn to rustle up a meal for 14 (6 adults, 8 children) on New Year’s Day. We’d prepared in advance by doing all the shopping, except for the salad ingredients, in Switzerland. Even the bread came from a lovely bakery in Zürich airport terminal. Swiss wine, an essential component of the meal, would have been too heavy to carry so we’d arranged an advance delivery to our hosts’ address by UK wine merchant Nick Dobson Wines. Nick is a man after my own heart who specialises in wines from Austria, Switzerland and Beaujolais. I’ve bought a number of items from him over the years both for home consumption and as gifts and he’s been really efficient, helpful and knowledgeable every time, plus supplied some really enjoyable wines so I would definitely recommend him if you are looking for something unusual. I give his contact details below at the end of this post.

Our Swiss themed menu was:

Bündnerfleisch (dried cured meat from Graubünden) – a mixture of beef and venison

Mixed salad

Cheese fondue

Bündner Nusstorte (caramel walnut pie from Graubünden)

We indulged in a bit of judicious cheating (or careful purchasing depending on your point of view!) and brought back from Klosters a bag of ready grated weighed and blended cheese for the fondue and the Nusstorte too.  I give recipes both for cheese fondue and Nusstorte below if you want to have a go at home. Both recipes have been tried and tested more than once back home in the UK.

Our Bündnerfleisch came from an artisanal manufacturer in Klosters, a little shop on the main Landstrasse road close to the Heid ski lift.  Bündnerfleisch is salted and cured meat, usually beef but we bought the venison version as well – similar but darker red with a background gamey flavour.  The raw meat is first salted and mixed with a secret recipe of herbs and spices before being hung up to dry for several weeks.  The meat is then pressed into a distinctive rectangular shape before being very thinly sliced and served.  Bündernerfleisch is similar to the better known Italian bresaola which itself comes from the nearby Valtellina.

The people who run the Klosters business very kindly showed me round their processing and drying rooms where I was able to sea the beef pieces maturing slowly in the rafters:

You can read more about Bündnerflesich by following this link: I just wish we could get hold of it more readily over here as it’s delicious.

This was a really easy meal to feed a crowd of people, fun for both grown-ups an children.  Neither the truly authentic Bündnerfleisch nor a pre-prepared Nusstorte are readily available here but you could easily substitute a platter of  other cured meats and procure a tart from your local bakery to recreate the idea.  Here is the grown-ups’ table (the riotous childrens’ table is just next door).

And here’s the beautiful Nusstorte fresh (well almost) from Charly’s in Klosters:

Recipe for cheese fondue “moitié-moitié” (half and half)

This recipe comes from my trusty little Betty Bossi Swiss Specialities cook book, a little ringbound volume with one recipe per page, clear simple and instructions and a photo of every dish.  The half and half in the recipe title refers to the mixture of 2 cheeses used in this fondue.  This recipe serves 4 people generously.


600g day-old bread from a cob or chunky baguette type of loaf (you need the right ratio of crust to crumb – a tin loaf would give too much crumb) cut into cubes
300g mature gruyère cheese
300g vacherin fribourgeois cheese (substitute emmental if vacherin fribourgeois is not available)
300 ml white wine, ideally a Swiss chasselas, otherwise whatever dry white wine you have to hand
1 peeled clove of garlic left whole
1 small glass (liqueur glass) of kirsch
1 tablespoon cornflour
a pinch each of freshly ground black pepper, paprika, freshly grated nutmeg

Grate the cheese using a coarse grater and place into the fondue pan. A traditional fondue pan is referred to as a caquelon.  If, like me you bought a ready grated fondue mix of cheeses, simply tip the contents of the packet into the fondue pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the cornflour and white wine.  Pour the mixture over the cheese in the fondue pan.  Place the pan over a low heat and slowly bring the mixture up to boiling point, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Add the whole garlic clove, kirsch and seasoning to the mix.  Once the mixture is smooth, creamy and bubbling, bring the fondue pan to the table and set your table burner on low.  You are now ready to serve.  Give the bottom of the pan a stir every so often with a bread cube on the end of your skewer to stop the cheese crust which forms on the base (known as la religieuse) from burning.

Recipe for Bündner Nusstorte

This recipe comes from a little ringbound paperback “Bündner Landfrauen Kochen” (Graubünden farmers’ wives cookbook) and was submitted both by Mrs Annina Mengiardi of Ardez (Swiss German version) and by Mrs Marta Padrun of Lavin (Romansch version) so it is certainly authentic.  My Romansch is limited but as far as I can tell, the recipes are identical. The translation from Swiss German is mine as are one or two additions. I’ve made the recipe twice now so can confirm that it works.  The sweet pastry dough is a little difficult to handle so be gentle with it. Caramelising the sugar for the filling has to be done carefully as well. The key thing is to seal in the filling thoroughly otherwise it bubbles out when baked.  A small slice of the pie is enough so on that basis the recipe would serve 12 people. It’s usually served on its own without cream or ice-cream and is just as good with a cup of tea or coffee as it is for pudding. I wonder if this is the European precursor to the American pecan pie?


300g plain flour
150g caster sugar
150g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt


300g caster sugar
50 ml water
250g roughly chopped walnuts
200 ml double cream
1 dessertspoon of honey

Rub the butter into the flour to which you have added the pinch of salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar then the beaten egg and work into a dough handling as lightly as you can. Wrap and chill the dough for half an hour.  Roll out 2/3 of the dough and use it to line a loose bottomed flan tin 24-26cm in diameter. Do not trim the excess pastry as you should aim to leave an overlap of 3 cm. Wrap and return the remaining pastry dough to the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the filling, melt together the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan and allow to caramelise to a brown colour. Add the chopped walnuts, cream and honey, stir well and allow to cool to room temperature.

Fill the pie base, then roll out a lid and place it over the tart.  Seal the edges well.  I recommend leaving the pie edges untrimmed at this stage as you can neaten up the edges after baking.  Prick the surface with a fork all over decoratively if you like (see picture above) but don’t overdo it as the filling will leak out.

Bake at 220 degrees C for the first 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 180 degrees C and bake until the tart is a light golden brown (approx another 30 minutes.

Contact details for Nick Dobson Wines

Telephone 0800 849 3078

An Antipodean New Year in London

January 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

For the past 10 years we have spent New Year’s Eve with a group of friends, taking turns to host and organise a special meal.  All of us enjoy good food and wine and we make a bit of an effort each year to come up with a different theme. In the past we’ve covered French, Italian, Middle Eastern, Spanish and American cuisines to name but a few.  This year we were in Highgate, North London and our hosts decided to choose an Australian theme.

This was a real eye-opener for me as I’ve never visited Australia.  I know there’s a lively food scene down under particularly in Sydney but my knowledge of Australian chefs and cookery writers was, until last week, restricted to Bill Granger’s books (of which I have seven at last count!), Jill Dupleix’s magazine articles and of course those handy little Australian Womens’ Weekly cookbooks.

Here is our fabulous menu:

Wasabi almonds and macadamia nuts

Fillet of wild kangaroo with anchovy butter; olive and bush tomato focaccia

Barbecued giant prawns; tarator; pepperberry bark

Spiced orange granita; orange, date and mint salad

Neil Perry’s slow-roast rib of beef; potato and celeriac gratin; green beans

Kiwi, blueberry and strawberry Pavlova; macadamia tuiles

It tasted as brilliant as it sounds and I discovered some brand new ingredients (bush tomatoes and pepperberry as well as the more obvious kangaroo), two new chefs/cookery writers (Neil Perry and Juleigh Robins) and a better tarator recipe than the previous one I’ve posted.

This is the amazing looking pepperberry bark, a paper thin crispbread which has dried Australian pepperberries both in the dough and sprinkled on top.  I give the recipe later on in this post.

According to cookery writer Juleigh Robins (whose book “Wild Food” was the source of some of the evening’s recipes) the pepperberry bush Tasmannia Lanceolata grows in the subalpine rainforests and gullies of Tasmania.  It can be used like black pepper – it has a distinctive spicy taste, a bit like a Szechuan peppercorn.  Juleigh Robins’ book lists other exotic and enticing ingredients too – anisata, bush tomato, Davidson’s plum, and best of all the miraculously chocolate flavoured wattleseed. Only two of her ingredients were familiar to me, the macadamia nut and wild rosella. I have come across wild rosella flowers referred to as hibiscus. They are preserved in syrup and make a superior edible garnish for champagne or soft drinks.

The pepperberry bark accompanied giant prawns which were cooked in true Australian style on the barbie, despite freezing temperatures outside.  You’ll see from the work-in-progress photo below that we dressed appropriately for the occasion:

The orange granita which followed made a refreshing palate cleanser before we moved on to the rare beef and then pudding.  Here’s a picture of the granita and I’m afraid this is the last photo as the evening was too much fun to stop and take pictures.

Recipe for pepperberry bark

This recipe for a paper thin crispbread akin to Sardinian carta da musica comes from Juleigh Robins’ book “Wild Food.”  The dried pepperberries impart a subtle purple colour to the dough and warm aromatic flavour to the  finished bread.


375g plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons dried crushed pepperberries
40g butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
100 ml water
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
extra crushed pepperberry for sprinkling

Using the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, mix the flour, salt, sugar, crushed pepperberry and butter together. Once the butter is well incorporated into the flour, add the milk, water and egg yolk and work until the mixture forms a firm dough. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for one hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Divide the dough into four.  Roll each piece as thinly as possible preferably using a pasta machine. It should be as thick as a tortilla/corn chip.  Work quickly not overworking the dough. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Tear each sheet of dough into 5 or 6 lengths making 20-30 pieces in all.  Carefully place the dough strips on the lined baking tray. With a pastry brush dipped in water lightly brush the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and crushed pepperberries.  Bake for 15 minutes until a light golden brown.

Recipe for barbecued marinated giant or king prawns

This recipe and the two that follow are from star Australian chef Neil Perry’s book “The Food I Love”. Neil Perry is the chef behind Sydney’s legendary Rockpool restaurant but his book is full of recipes designed to cook at home without too much restaurant-style frippery.  Just checked and it’s readily available on Amazon if you’re interested.  This recipe serves 4.


for the marinade

2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 lemongrass stalk peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 red chillies
zest of half a lemon plus juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt
125 ml extra virgin olive oil

to grill and serve the prawns

20 large king prawns cut in half lengthways and deveined (for our multi-course meal we made do with just 3 monster prawns, half per person, each the size of a small lobster!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
125 ml tarator (see next recipe)
lemon wedges

To make the marinade, put all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Put the prawns into a large bowl, pour over the marinade, cover and leave for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the barbecue to hot.  Make sure the grill bars are clean. Put the prawns on the grill cut side down. Cook for one minute (a little longer for a giant prawn).  Turn and cook for one minute  more (again a little longer for a giant prawn).

Remove the prawns from the grill and pile onto four plates. Drizzle with olive oil, season with a few twists of pepper and serve with a dollop of tarator and a lemon wedge or two.

Recipe for tarator

Another Neil Perry recipe.  This is a better tasting tarator than the one I posted back in September.  It calls for pounding by hand in a pestle and mortar.  I’m not sure if our hostess did this on new year’s eve – I would be tempted to use a food processor.


50g walnuts, lightly roasted
sea salt
2 garlic cloves
40g fresh breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
juice of a lemon
125 ml extra virgin olive oil

Put the walnuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. Pound to a paste.  Add breadcrumbs and a dash of water and pound to mix through. Add pepper and lemon juice then slowly add the olive oil a little at a time, pounding to a creamy consistency.

Recipe for date, orange and mint salad with orange granita

A final Neil Perry recipe.  This makes a zingy and refreshing intermediate course or pudding.  On new year’s eve we had a simplified version with just the granita and a few dates scattered on the side. This recipe serves 8.


for the granita

550 ml orange juice, freshly squeezed
115g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground cardamom
5 drops orange flower water
125 ml water

for the salad

16 fresh dates soaked in hot water for 10 minutes then skins removed and pitted
4 segmented oranges
8 finely sliced mint leaves

Strain the juice through a fine sieve and put in a bowl with the sugar, spices,orange flower water and 125ml water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Strain into a container such that the mixture is approximately 2 inches deep. Freeze.  Fork through every 30 minutes or so.  The mixture will take 4-5 hours to freeze into granular crystals.

To make the salad, quarter the dates and mix together with the segmented oranges and sliced mint leaves.  Divide between 8 glasses and add a spoonful of granita.

If you had a special meal on New Year’s Eve I would love to hear about it.

Rustic food in Klosters and traditional dishes from Graubünden

January 10, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’m going to start this post on our recent trip to Klosters with a mention of Charly’s Chestnuts.  No, this isn’t an irreverent dig at the British royal family who like to holiday here but a reference to a Klosters landmark.  The eponymous Charly sets up his wagon daily just outside the station and his roast chestnuts are very good indeed.

I’ve already written about some of Klosters’ hotel restaurants and the elegant food they serve up.  What I haven’t mentioned so far are some of the mountain restaurants catering for skiers.  Yes, there are the busy cafeteria style establishments by the main lifts at Gotschna, Davos and Madrisa, but if you want something a bit special, you have to travel a little further afield.

Bruhin’s restaurant is virtually on the summit of  the Weissfluhgipfel which at 2883m is the highest point on the Parsenn massif.  The views across to the Silvretta and Rätikon are stunning and window tables here are in great demand.  The menu offers either restaurant style dishes or local specialities.  I haven’t eaten here recently, but they do a good cup of coffee – you can warm up on the sheepskin upholstered seats before taking the long run down to Schifer.

If you are skiing in the Madrisa ski area, then Berghaus Erika in the hamlet of Schlappin makes a worthwhile destination.  Its plus point or drawback, depending on your point of view, is that is situated at the foot of a long tree-lined black run.

We tried the local Prättigau speciality Chäsgetschäder here, a cheesy bread bake, perfect after a hard morning’s skiing.  I’ve searched out  a recipe for this dish which I give below.  The version in the recipe sounds more soupy and creamy than the dish we ate at Berghaus Erika – their version appears to have been baked in the oven or cooked on the stove top to produce a golden crust:

At the foot of another black run is the Hotel Kulm in Wolfgang, the hamlet on the main road between Klosters and Davos.  This is another atmospheric place to eat, with lots of local specialities on the menu.  The hotel sits between the main road and station at Wolfgang – there’s no ski lift back to the slopes, so time your meal to coincide with a Rhätischebahn train back  to either Davos or Klosters .  Here’s a view of the hotel from the station platform.

We tried Maluns, a dish of fried potatoes served with cheese and apple sauce, a typically Swiss combination. This dish looks rather basic when it arrives – essentially a plate of crispy golden crumbs, a piece of cheese and dollop of apple sauce on the side, but the combination tastes good.  I’ve managed to find a recipe too which I give below.

A day skiing in Klosters wouldn’t be complete without an après-ski drink and snack in Bistro Logo in the main street – this seems to be the town’s only café and is permanently busy as a result.  Since Graubünden went smoke-free a couple of years ago, this is now a very pleasant place to sit and chat.  My son George’s favourite order here is the apple strudel with both vanilla sauce and whipped cream:

Finally, a mention of two other regional dishes which appear frequently on menus in and around Klosters.  The first is Pizokel, a gratin of potato dumplings which makes a hearty ski lunch.  Here’s how it’s served locally andI give a recipe below.

The second is Capuns, another Graubünden speciality – little parcels of savoury stuffing wrapped in Swiss chard leaves.  Sadly, I didn’t have an opportunity to try these during our trip.  Of all the local dishes, these seem to fit in with current cooking trends – not too much cheese, butter and starch and the use of a vegetable rather than pasta or pastry to encase a savoury filling has a contemporary feel even though this is a traditional regional dish.  My trusty little Betty Bossi cookbook which I bought in Switzerland ages ago has come up trumps again – I give the recipe below and plan to give it a try as soon as I can get hold of some Swiss chard.

Recipe for Maluns – a fried potato dish, a speciality of Graubünden

This recipe comes from “Bündner Landfrauen Kochen” (the Graubünden Farmers’ Wives Cookbook), a little spiral-bound paperback book I bought in the Klosters bookshop a couple of years ago.  The contributor is a Mrs Renata Canetg from Domat/Ems, a little town in the Rhine Valley near Chur.

She doesn’t say how many people this will serve – I estimate this would make 4 generous portions.

This was originally a breakfast dish eaten with and in fact mixed with milky coffee.  You will find it more commonly served now as a hearty lunch or supper dish with a good-sized wedge of cheese and a dollop of apple sauce.  The combination of cheese, potato and apple is typically Swiss.


1 kg waxy potatoes boiled in their skins and left for two days
350 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt – more to taste
125g-150g butter (depending on how your potatoes behave)

To serve

Apple sauce
Wedges of Graubünden mountain cheese

Peel the potatoes and grate them using a coarse grater.  Mix the grated potatoes with the flour and a little salt.  Divide the mixture into two and fry one portion at a time in a non-stick frying pan in hot butter.  When the mixture colours, turn the heat down a little and cook until golden, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  The mixture will form into small balls.  Serve immediately while hot and crispy.

Recipe for Kartoffelpizokel – potato dumplings, a speciality of Prättigau

This recipe serves 4 people and comes from a little recipe book by fictional Swiss author Betty Bossi entitled “Specialités Suisses”.  The Prättigau is the region within the canton of Graubünden comprising the Landquart and Landwasser valleys in which respectively Klosters and neighbouring Davos are located.


700g peeled raw potatoes, floury such as Désirée
100 to 150g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the gratin

200g grated Prättigau mountain cheese (substitute Gruyère if you like)
1 tablespoon butter
100g lardons (diced bacon)
2 medium onions halved and thinly sliced

Cranberry sauce to serve (the Swiss recipe suggests a compôte d’airelles which is similar to our cranberry sauce – the airelle is a sharp red mountain berry)

Grate the potatoes into a bowl using a fine grater.  Squeeze out some of the raw potato juice with your hands. Mix in 100g of the flour, salt and pepper. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. With two spoons, take a small piece of the mixture, form it into a dumpling and drop it into the boiling water.  If it doesn’t hold its shape, stir in the extra 50g of flour specified in the list of ingredients.

Form the mixture into dumplings and drop them into the water.  Stir around.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  They will at first drop to the bottom of the pan then rise to the surface once they are cooked, like gnocchi.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place them into a buttered gratin dish.  Sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees C for 20 minutes.

While the pizokel are in the oven, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the lardons and cook until golden.  Add the sliced onions to the pan and continue cooking until the onions are golden.  Spread the mixture over the baked pizokel.

Recipe for Chäsgetschäder – a rustic cheese bake, a speciality of Prättigau

Another recipe from the Betty Bossi Swiss Specialities book – serves 4.


100g butter
2 onions, finely chopped
250g day old white bread, crust on, cut into cubes
750 ml milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a little grated nutmeg
600g aged Prättigau mountain cheese, grated (or a mixture of aged Appenzell,Gruyère  and Fribourg Vacherin cheeses in the ratio 250:250: 100. The recipe needs mature cheese otherwise it will lack flavour and be too stringy and indigestible)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or enamelled casserole. Add the chopped onions and cook until golden. Add the bread cubes and fry briefly. Add the milk, bring to the boil and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Gradually add the grated cheese, stirring constantly, until the mixture become creamy.  Serve immediately.

Recipe for Capuns – stuffed swiss chard leaves, a speciality of Graubünden


For the stuffing

150g flour
pinch salt
3 tablespoons milk
2 eggs
1 dessertspoon butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 dessertspoon snipped chives
50g chopped air dried beef from Graubünden
100g cooked salami type sausage cut into small dice

For the wrappers

16 young tender Swiss chard leaves

To finish the dish

100 ml double cream
200 ml meat stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a little butter for frying the ham strips
50 g raw cured ham cut into strips

Work the flour, salt, milk and eggs into a thick paste.  Put it aside and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, sauté the onions until translucent.  Add the chopped herbs, give the mixture a quick stir, then turn off the heat.  When the mixture is cool, mix it with the paste. Add the chopped dried beef and sausage.

Now prepare the leaves.  Blanch them briefly in abundant boiling salted water then plunge them immediately into iced water.  Dry them on absorbent kitchen paper.

Place a teaspoon or so of filling onto each leaf then roll up.

Now cook the formed capuns.  Pour the cream and stock into a large saucepan, season and bring to simmering point. Add the capuns to the pan, cover and allow to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Heat a little butter in a small frying pan and quickly fry the ham strips until crispy.  Divide the capuns between 4 plates, spoon over a little cooking liquid and garnish with the fried ham strips.

Restaurant contact details

Bruhin’s Weissfluhgipfel
7260 Davos Dorf
Tel. +41 (0)81 417 66 44
Fax +41 (0)81 417 66 40

Berghaus Erika – Schlappin
Tel +41 (0)81 422 11 17

Hotel Restaurant Kulm
7265 Davos-Wolfgang
Tel. +41 (0) 81 417 07 07
Fax +41 (0) 81 417 07 99

Bistro Logo
7250 Klosters
Tel. +41 (0)81 422 19 96

Comforting casseroles part 1: pork

January 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

I was vaguely thinking about preparing some Indian vegetarian food in the new year – cleansing, soothing and lightly spiced, but the arrival of snow has put paid to that idea and I find I am craving casseroles – something warming simmering away on the hob to keep out the winter chill.

Here are two of my favourite pork recipes. One is a modified version of a Delia Cheat recipe, Spanish influenced and incredibly easy to throw together.  The second comes from one of my favourite Italian cookery writers, Marcella Hazan, and is also quick and simple to put together. With its combination of juniper, bay and dried wild mushrooms, the pork becomes something special acquiring a gamey flavour a little like wild boar.

Both are just the ticket after returning from an outing on skis along the A56 main Manchester Road!

Here’s the mise en place for the Spanish pork stew with potatoes and chorizo – this is for a double quantity – half to serve now and half to go in the freezer.

Here’s the assembled dish before cooking:

And here is the end result!

I served the stew with some lightly steamed spinach and a chunk of home-made bread.  It is a one-pot dish complete with potatoes and vegetables but I do think it needs something green to go with it, be that salad or your favourite vegetable.

Recipe for Spanish pork stew with potatoes, beans and chorizo

Serves 4.  Adapted from recipe found on  My changes are to use ordinary canned tomatoes rather than the specified tomato frito and to use a mixture of cooked butterbeans and potatoes rather than just potatoes.  Also, I couldn’t find pork shoulder so I used pork fillet instead.  This is not an ideal cut for a casserole because it contains very little fat and doesn’t need long cooking to make it tender.  Accordingly, I reduced the cooking time to 45 minutes rather than the specified 1 and a half hours.


1lb (450g) piece trimmed shoulder of pork cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks.
8 oz (225g) small salad potatoes, halved or quartered if necessary to make bite-sized chunks.  A variety such as Charlotte or Nicola is good – floury potatoes are not suitable for this recipe
1 standard tin or half a large jar of cooked, drained and rinsed butterbeans
4 oz (110g) chorizo sausage peeled if necessary and cut into bite sized chunks – either the cooked or raw kind is OK providing it’s a whole sausage – the ready sliced kind is not suitable for this recipe
1  350g jar roasted peppers on oil, drained but left whole (reserve the oil to add to the pot)
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced (a normal onion is OK if you don’t have a red one)
6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1 tablespoon olive oil (use the oil reserved from the jar of peppers if you like)
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands, crumbled into the pot between your fingertips
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
5 fl oz dry white wine (I like to use dry Vermouth for cooking as I find it less acidic and with an aromatic herby background flavour which works well with food.  I like Noilly Prat or an American vermouth from Andrew Quady called Vya)
1 standard-sized can plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (to save time and washing up, I do this by opening the can and snipping the contents with pair of kitchen scissors)
1 oz (25g) pitted black olives, cut in half (you can use green if you prefer, in fact the anchovy or pimento stuffed kind might work pretty well in this recipe)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C (275 degrees F or gas mark 1). Put all the ingredients into a  lidded, ovenproof casserole dish.  Give everything a good stir, then put the casserole on the hob and bring the contents up to simmering point.  Then transfer the casserole to the preheated oven for one and a half hours.  That’s it!  No browning etc – it practically cooks itself.

Recipe for braised pork with wild mushrooms and juniper berries -stufatino di maiale alla boscaiola

This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s Second Classic Italian Cookbook.  The pork becomes something really special given this treatment and I’ve served this dish at more than one dinner party as it is a good-natured main course that can be prepared in advance needing no last minute attention from the cook.  The hand of pork is the front leg equivalent to the back leg ham joint and thus lies just below the shoulder.  I’ve made this dish successfully with other cuts – leg and even fillet on occasion but you do need to be careful not to overcook leaner, more tender cuts.  Marcella Hazan suggests serving the pork with mounds of steaming polenta and braised leeks or fried broccoli florets.  I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t like polenta – if you’re one of them, then try serving it with mash instead – an olive oil or parmesan flavoured mash would be good.

Serves 4


25-30g (3/4-1 oz) dried wild porcini mushrooms
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
350 ml (2/3 pint) water
6 tablespoons olive oil
680g (1 and 1/2 lb) boned hand of pork, cut into pieces about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and 5cm (2 inches) square
8 tablespoons dry white wine (or vermouth such as Noilly Prat or Vya – see comments in preceding recipe)
2 tablespoons good wine vinegar (I use balsamic which gives a lovely dark colour to the sauce)
3 flat preserved anchovy fillets, chopped (these melt into the sauce imparting a savoury flavour)
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 dried bayleaves, crumbled (or chopped fresh ones)
20 juniper berries, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar – aim for bruising rather than complete destruction
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the mushrooms for at least 30 minutes in a small bowl with 350 ml (2/3 pint) lukewarm water.  When they have finished soaking, carefully lift out the mushrooms without disturbing the water.  Rinse them in several changes of cold water to rid them of any grit still clinging to them. Chop them into not too fine pieces, and set aside. Filter the water in which they have soaked through a fine wire strainer lined with kitchen paper and reserve.

Choose a sauté pan or flameproof casserole that can later contain all the meat in no more than two layers, put in the onion and oil, and cook over medium heat. When the onion becomes translucent, put in the pork. Turn the heat up to medium high and brown the meat all over. Put in the wine and the vinegar, raise the heat a little, and let them bubble away for a minute or two.

Put in the chopped mushrooms, their strained water, the chopped anchovies, the marjoram, the bayleaves and the crushed juniper berries. Stir all the contents of the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Put in two or three generous pinches of salt, a liberal grinding of pepper, stir again, and cover the pan tightly.

Cook at a very gentle simmer for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender when pricked with a fork. When the meat is done, if the juices in the pan are thin and runny, uncover, and turn up the heat  to medium high. Reduce the juices until the fat separates out from them and skim off any excess fat.  The pork is now ready to serve.

Do you have any good pork casserole recipes you’d care to share with me?  I would love to discover some new ones.

Dining out in Klosters: Michelin vs Gault Millau

January 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

Finally back home after a few days skiing in Klosters and new year celebrations in London. Right now, it feels like there’s just as much snow back home as there was in Switzerland.

Klosters is a schizophrenic kind of place. It’s a favourite haunt of minor royalty (though the only familiar face I spotted was that of shadow chancellor George Osborne sporting, surprisingly not a True Tory blue but, a head-to-toe red ski outfit) yet is very much non-glitzy. In the main street you are more likely to bump into a Swiss Hausfrau wheeling a shopping trolley than a leggy supermodel wheeling a flight bag. Hardware shops rub shoulders in the main street with jewellers’ shopfronts displaying the obligatory Swiss watches. There are more churches (one catholic, one protestant) than nightclubs (just the one – the discreet but shady looking Casa Antica).

Klosters is home to a clutch of well-regarded restaurants most of which are attached to hotels. Perhaps the best known (because Prince Charles chooses to stay here) is the Walserhof. Its restaurant has 2 Michelin stars and 17 Gault Millau points. Here is its inviting front door and a view of chef Armin Amrein’s festive tasting menu.

Interestingly, the Swiss place more emphasis on the Gault Millau ranking than Michelin. Gault Millau is an alternative French restaurant rating system which awards points for food alone. A maximum of 20 points are available  which until recently meant in practice that the top score was in fact 19: with a French philosophical bent, Messrs Gault and Millau determined that perfection was never attainable. Controversially, in 2004 (by which date Messrs Gault and Millau were long gone), 2 restaurants in France were awarded the magical maximum 20 points and that number has subsequently grown to a handful. Falling standards or genuine excellence I wonder?

Sadly, I’m not in a position to comment on Gault Millau ratings as all their rated restaurants in Klosters (the Alpina, the Chesa Grischuna and the Rustico as well as the Walserhof) were fully booked.

This was perhaps a blessing in disguise as there is only so much cheffy food a body can eat and on a skiing holiday something more substantial is required. We paid visits to the cosy restaurant at the Steinbock Hotel (just across the road from the Walserhof), the Grill Room at the Pardenn Hotel, the restaurant in the swanky Hotel Vereina and, finally, for a more informal evening, the Pizzeria Fellini.

The Steinbock has to be one of Klosters’ best-kept secrets.  It has a charming dining-room, soft lighting, wood beams and pink linen. On the evening we visited, the clientele was mainly Swiss families out for a celebratory meal. This is us, disturbing their peace just a little:

We chose the set four-course menu.  Particularly good were the pheasant consommé and the parmesan-crusted lamb main course.

Both these dishes were undeniably old-fashioned – straight out of Escoffier in fact. My copy of Escoffier’s  Guide Culinaire includes 137 consommé recipes. Whilst some of these are outlandish (swallows’ nest consommé for example), I think that a well-made simply garnished consommé is delicious, fits perfectly into a multi-course meal and deserves a revival. The lamb was served with lots of lovely vegetables and the most enormous caperberries (Kapernäpfel in German).  These seem to be the latest trendy ingredient in the German speaking world – they keep cropping up in restuarant menus and German food magazines.

We drank a bottle of local red wine with our meal, a Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Mayenfeld in the Rhine Valley a few miles away. Mayenfeld, more commonly spelt Maienfeld, is famous for being the local town mentioned in “Heidi”.

Next evening was the grill room at the Pardenn, a largish 60s hotel a little way out of town on the Monbiel road. Again, we opted for the 4 course tasting menu. The venison tartare first course was outstanding, as was my pudding choice of savarin, a dinky individual rum baba:

Yes, I know that the presentation looks a little stuck in a 60s/70s timewarp (as frankly does the hotel décor – alpine gemütlich it is not) but believe me, the syrup-drenched savarin was delicious.

Next evening, we chose the restaurant at the Hotel Vereina.  The Vereina is an outsized Disney castle of a building plonked right in the middle of  town. Unusually for Klosters, it aims to attract the kind of clientele who like to display their money. We  were ushered into the dining room which looked to have had an extreme makeover back in the late 1980s – a lot of ornate steel and glass furniture combined with swags of fabric, not that easy on the eye.

Despite the shortcomings in ambience, the staff were, seemingly as ever in Switzerland, charming and appropriately attentive. The food was for the most part pleasant but nothing to write home about, international hotel cuisine without much personality – in my case it was just a bowl of soup and piece of grilled veal, no more, no less. Then the puddings came. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but the 3 choices we made (I opted just for an extra spoon to share all 3) were excellent – an unctuous crème brûlée, a chocolate fondant with a perfectly melting interior and, best of all, George’s choice of a vanilla soufflé:

Our final evening was a relaxed affair at the Pizzeria Fellini.  The service was swift and efficient, the pizzas properly thin and crusty. Special mention has to go to my choice of a raclette pizza – melted raclette cheese (no tomato), gherkins and tiny pickled onions all on a pizza base.  Perhaps the ultimate example of fusion food?


Landstrasse 141 . CH-7250 Klosters
Tel: +41 (0)81 410 29 29
Fax: + 41 (0)81 410 29 39


Landstrasse 146 . CH-7250 Klosters
Telefon: +41 (0)81 422 45 45
Fax: + 41 (0)81 422 16 36


Landstrasse 146 . CH-7250 Klosters
Tel: +41 (0)81 422 45 45
Fax: + 41 (0)81 422 16 36


Landstrasse 179 . CH-7250 Klosters
Tel: +41 (0)81 410 27 27
Fax: + 41 (0)81 410 27 28

Pizzeria Fellini

Bahnhofstrasse 22. CH-7250 Klosters
Tel. +41 (0)81 422 22 11

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