A while ago I was given Raymond Blanc’s cookbook Kitchen Secrets. I quite enjoy the fact that the cover reminds me of an 80s science school book – all primary colours and flat shapes – and inside there are some seriously stylish dishes that Raymond insists mere home cooks can recreate. Considerate man that he is, he gives each recipe a 1-3 star rating, with 3 stars meaning the most difficult (natch) – think ‘Tomato theme’ with a jelly, granite, sorbet and essence (eek!). I started off with the mouth-watering chocolate fondant (2 stars) with its salted caramel centre. The first time it turned out beautifully whereas the second time it was all a molten mass – delicious but just not right. Maybe I got too confident: baking is fickle! Anyway, the salted caramel mix which you freeze in ice trays ready for placing in the chocolate mixture makes far too much which is fantastic as they are delicious eaten straight from the freezer (not that I would do that, ahem!).
Recently I had a lots of random odds and ends of vegetables – half a fennel, some carrots and courgettes - and my basil plant had not yet bit the dust (miraculous in a kitchen which struggles to get warmer than the -1 degrees outside!), all perfect for the fresh sounding ‘Pistou soup’. I have to admit I doubted Raymond’s advice that the soup needed no stock as the vegetables give it flavour, but naturalmente he was correct. The soft earthy flavour of the veg was enhanced by the punchy pesto, salty parmesan and oily toasted croutons. It was very quick to make (it’s 1 star btw) and I’d perhaps add some small pasta such as orzo if you wanted something more substantial and Italian.
As I am feeling ultra lazy of late (January does that to one, no?) here is the link to the recipe which he must have done on his TV show a while back.