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Man cannot live on chickpeas alone. In their naked cooked state they can be a little unappetising. But they remain a healthy, cheap food.  Roasted in olive oil with a little salt and they become delicate and nuanced. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  They make a great snack and a good sidekick for an evening aperitif. Babies love to munch on them too!


This couscous dish stands well alone or as a hot or cold accompaniment to fish or meat.


  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous (uncooked measure)
  • 2 tablespoons golden sultanas
  • a handful of fresh vine tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful of chopped fresh basil

Plus 1 quantity spice mix (see below)

Spice mix (vary as desired) also see a previous post using a spice mix…

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a little sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350f.  If using canned chickpeas rinse them well in cold water and drain in a colander. In the meantime, using a bowl big enough to handle the chickpeas, make the spice mix blending the ingredients together with the oils. Coat the chickpeas with the spice mix and let sit for a few minutes.  Spread the coated chickpeas evenly in a single layer on a roasting pan shaking them around a little to make sure the spice mix is well distributed. Sprinkle a little salt over them. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the skins start to become papery and dry.

While waiting for the chickpeas make the couscous – follow the instructions on your particular brand of couscous!  While you wait for the couscous to fluff up, set it aside.

For the tomatoes, plonk them a in a bowl of boiling water for a minute, then plonk them in a bowl of cold water for a minute. You will then be able to drain them and easily remove the skins. (This works well for peaches too). Cut the tomatoes into quarters or halves depending on their size and set aside.  Submerge the sultanas in a little warm water for a few minutes too. Then drain them and set them aside. This will plump them up nicely.

Once the chickpeas are roasted to your liking take them out of the oven and allow to cool a little so they don’t break apart too much when handled. Then assemble your dish. In a serving dish mix the warm couscous with a little butter, add the chickpeas, the sultanas and the tomatoes. Sprinkle with some torn up fresh basil and serve warm or cold.


Our new Brooklyn friends kindly gave us their share of a local CSA last weekend. The Red Hook community farm which supplies the Red Hook CSA is run by the non-profit Added Value in a community that needed a little help in the fresh produce area. Read about it here….

Our share included fresh green tomatillos nicely nestled in their papery husks. These aren’t something that appear on the typical Paris menu and I really had never handled one before .  The tomatillo is a staple of Mexican cuisine mainly used for salsa verde and is part of the nightshade family which, while related to the tomato family, is not part of it.

I decided to husk them and roast them in a little olive oil  for about 45 minutes with a few cloves of (Red Hook) garlic and an onion.
Result – a rough and ready cold ‘jam’ spiked with sweet roasted garlic to spread on a piece of cheddar…


Tis the season…autumn meets winter, the appearance of parsnips to confound French people, it’s that period of in-between-the-Thanksgiving(s) plus the Halloween call for pumpkin head carving that will create a lot of pumpkin gut spilling. What to do with it?

pumpkin pie

Pie! This is a weeks worth of breakfast right there so that alone will make it worth your while.

Pumpkin Pie, nothing revolutionary for some people but I had never made one. No idea what it actually tasted like either.  Minor details. I somehow unintentionally avoided it up to now.  Turns out it’s an acquired taste, a good one, a great breakfast food and it begs to made in savoury form (as most of these pies do). Unsweetened canned pumpkin puree is mostly used for this kind of recipe but canned was not to be found and secretly I didn’t want to go down that road. (The slippery slope of canned goods and all…) Smaller pumpkins or the natural “slices” of the large ones made good candidates for the filling. Carve it up into hunks and roast it for about an hour with a little olive oil until you can put it in the food processor.

A little spice in the filling adds a necessary bit of flavour and the nuts on top give a little toasted crunch to an otherwise rather mushy affair…

Happy Halloween!


- about 3 good chunks of a large pumpkin (the big slices) chopped and slowly roasted until you can puree it and set it aside to cool (maybe do it in advance)
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 150gr brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- one pate brisée – make a pastry of short choice and prepare your crust in a wide pie tin
Use half wholemeal flour if you feel like it – this is not a delicate dessert so the crust can take a sturdier flour.
- 1/2 cup finely crushed hazelnuts (the other half you can sprinkle on top)
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Optional (but so important!)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon of freshly grated cloves

- 1 inch of fresh ginger (grated)


You can roast the pumpkin flesh well in advance. An issue may be that the pumpkin puree becomes a little too liquid. The cornstarch will offset that so it’s not a problem. Even if it seems a little “wet” once out of the oven, time in the fridge or time to cool will sort that.

Make the crust in advance, prick the base with a fork and brush the edges with the maple syrup. Instead of baking blind, scatter a layer of the nuts over the base in order to prevent the pumpkin filling from making it soggy. You could experiment here – crushed biscuits, toasted almonds…this will help to create a barrier between the filling and the base. Adds a little something to the taste too. The rest of these crushed nuts or cookies can be your topping.

Once the pumpkin flesh is blended and cooled beat in the eggs, the vanilla extract and the sugar along with any spices you want to add for flavour.  Pour the filling into the base and sprinkle with the rest of the hazelnuts creating a topping.
Bake for about 50 minutes at 190°C.

Serve chilled or a room temp with vanilla ice cream or fresh cream.


There is something about roasted fennel. Usually served raw with oranges, the flavour that emerges from soft slightly crispy, almost see through slow roasted fennel makes for something a little different. Turkey, chicken, crab meat, tofu would also work well.


3 sweet ripe oranges
fresh lettuce leaves
2 bulbs fennel
2 turkey breasts
salt, pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons walnut oil (or olive oil)


DSC_0579The key to this is to make sure the fennel is nicely thinly sliced before roasting, too thick and it doesn’t get that delicious slow cooked translucent caramelized quality.

Adding cinnamon to the oranges when chopped into pieces brings out their flavour. Served alone, this is also a quick and easy Moroccan inspired salad or dessert.

Cook the turkey in a hot skillet with a little oil and a little cinnamon. Set aside. Once the fennel is done remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled toss the orange, turkey and fennel together drizzle with the rest of the oil and cinnamon and serve on the lettuce. Also works well in a soft tortilla wrap or  cold the next day.

Pumpkin and lamb curry served in a pumpkin bowl. Pumpkins make great bowls.

They just take a lot of wrist work to empty. Sharpen your knives and dig in. Carefully.

In the same way as small children like to grab shiny round things that come in bright colours, I too cannot resist pumpkins. They’re just so satisfying to look at. This is pumpkin month, Halloween approaches and although it’s a rather discreet and misunderstood holiday in this neck of the woods, it doesn’t mean that we can’t think of dinnering ideas that involve these masses of autumn bounty. They’re all over the morning markets but you have to seize them quickly, the ones that can be carved into mysterious and terrifying objects go fast not to mention the ones that were obviously destined to provide crockery to people who might need some in which to serve that nights dinner…… Lamb and pumpkin curry – served in its own pumpkin bowl seemed like the perfect Sunday night supper. The recipe is simple and can be either veggie or not. Makes not a lot of difference. Well, unless you’re the lamb in question or a vegetarian. Then it does indeed make quite a bit of difference. Add other things, take them away, use coconut milk and green curry paste for an entirely more fragrant and less rich affair…

This may well just be the beginning of an array of ‘Things to fill pumpkin bowls with’…


1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 or 5 lamb chops or gigots (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of hot curry paste (garam masala)
1 aubergine, cubed
1 sweet potato, semi-roasted
flesh of 4 small pumpkins, roasted
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups water
a handful of fresh spinach leaves


Preheat the oven. The pumpkin will need to roast for about 45 minutes before you start making the curry so plan in advance. Removing the flesh from the pumpkin well in advance makes life a lot easier. Carefully remove the tops, cut into the flesh to get at the seeds, scoop, dig, tear, do whatever you have to to get the seeds out.


Discard the seeds or set them aside for toasting later. Then start scooping out the pumpkin flesh. Have ready a roasting dish in which to roast the pumpkin and the sweet potato. Set the pumpkin bowls aside with their ‘lids’, rinse out any extra scraps of seed or flesh and pat dry. Put the pumpkin flesh in the oven with the sweet potato for at least 40 minutes. Then remove as much of the lamb as you can from the bone. In a hot pan quickly sear the lamb on both sides to seal in the juices, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the hot pan with the garlic and the mustard seeds. Let soften for a few minutes before adding the aubergine. When the aubergine is soft add the meat, the roasted pumpkin and sweet potato. The sweet potato need only be partially cooked. Stir well for a few minutes, then add the curry paste. Stir well and add the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour on a low heat. Just before serving add the fresh spinach leaves. They’ll wilt only slightly and add a splash of green to the comforting caramel toffee texture of this warming spicy stew.

Spoon into the four pumpkins and serve with the lids on!DSC_0540


Special at the supermarket on huge north African dates. Add two chicken breasts and a bulb of fennel. Take home and start chopping…

This is easy, sweet and savoury as well as being low in fat. Fennel is a wonderful creature. When roasted it becomes a docile flavour, almost caramel yet still strong enough to stand up to a strong companion such as a spicy chorizo. The dates dissolve in the oven to give a sticky sauce and are picked up by the fresh cumin making a simple dish a surprising contrast of flavours. The whole garlic cloves become soft and liquid in the oven losing their pungency but none of their sweetness. (Obviously a spoon of maple syrup drizzled over the lot just before baking would not be out of place but that could remain optional…..)

Ingredients (serves 2)

6-8 sweet dates (halved and pitted)
2 chicken breasts (chopped into strips)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds (toasted in a dry pan)
1 inch of fresh ginger root (finely crushed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of nut oil (or olive oil)
1 large tomato
1 bulb of fennel


Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan and set aside
Finely chop the ginger and mix with the nut oil in a small dish or glass. Add the toasted cumin to the mix at this point too.
Chop the chicken into strips. Then deal with the fennel. Remove the outer layers and the leafy stalks as well as the tougher ends and bottom from the bulb. Cut in half and place the cut side down. Then slice finely sideways into strips.
With a knife slice into each date and squeeze out the stone and then cut the dates in half
Cut the tomato into large chunks.

Layer the chicken, the fennel slices evenly along the bottom of an oiled oven proof dish and follow with another layer of the dates and tomato chunks plus the whole cloves of garlic.

Pour the ginger and oil mix over the layers along with a glass of water. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the fennel is soft and the chicken cooked through.