Tuesday, May 29, 2012


One of France's most rugged regions, the northwestern province of Brittany, is a captivating blend of spectacular coastline, verdant countryside, ancient towns with castles and medieval cobbled streets, stone megaliths, exquisite islands, inland woods and inviting sandy beaches.

 Jutting out into the Atlantic, between the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay; Brittany was a Celtic duchy for more than one thousand years before its annexation to France in the 16th century.  It is a land rich in culture, tradition and history. Even today, one-fourth of Brittany speaks Breton, a language closely related to Celtic Cornish and Welsh. Many habitu├ęs prefer beer over wine.

Brittany is also famous for their large number of Michelin starred chefs, and is the birthplace of crepes.
Surrounded by the sea, Brittany’s coastal location offers a wide selection of seafood dishes; but of particular note are the fish stews, which provide a popular, hearty meal and use a wide variety of fish.

One particularly tempting seafood dish is Cotriade (co tree ahd), a specialty of Brittany. Cotriade is a wonderful fish stew, sometimes made from monkfish and/or mackerel and mixed with onions, parsley, white wine, garlic and potatoes, and is traditionally served with crusty baguette slices.

Adapted from Practical One Pot, Parragon Book, Bath, UK 2002

Cotriade – Fish Stew from Brittany           Serves 4
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • 2 ½ cups fish bouillon or stock, heated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 leek trimmed and sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound potatoes, pared and cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 ½ teaspoons dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 pounds mixed fish filets, such as haddock, cod, mackerel etc
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread

  1. Crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle or spice grinde
  2. Stir into heated fish bouillon and then let steep for ten minutes
  3. Heat oil and butter together in a large saucepan
  4. Stir in the onion and cook 4 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally
  5. Stir in the garlic, leek, fennel and potatoes
  6. Cover and cook for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are almost softened
  7. Pour in the wine, stir, turn up the heat, and gently boil for three minutes
  8. Check level, wine should be reduced by about half
  9. Stir in the thyme, bay leaves and tomatoes
  10. Add the saffron/fish bouillon
  11. Bring to the boil, lower heat and cover
  12. Simmer gently for about ten minutes so that all vegetables become tender
  13. Add the fish, bring to the boil and then simmer for only three minutes
  14. Stir in the parsley and season to taste
With a slotted spoon, remove the fish and vegetables to a warmed serving dish.

 Traditionally, the soup portion is served separately followed by the fish and vegetables, but you could serve it as one dish.

Last time I served this Brittany fish stew, the hummers came out. After every mouthful it was hmm, umm, hmm, almost ad infinitum; and why not?  It’s that good.

Enjoy Cotriade, a fine fish stew from Brittany soon.


Friday, May 18, 2012


The heady flavour of curry is found outside of India in places like the Caribbean, but did you know that there are curries as far away as South Africa?  It’s an interesting story about how exotic foods like Sosatiese (kebabs) and Bredie (stew) became popular in South Africa. They were brought there by Dutch captives from the Malay Archipelago 300 years ago.

The giant Dutch East India Company opened a station in South Africa in 1652 to refresh supplies for its ships traveling to the Far East. They needed workers but were forbidden by Dutch law from enslaving the southern African natives. The political exiles or prisoners from places like Java, who had opposed the colonization of their homeland, were brought by the Dutch to South Africa as indentured servants or slaves.

By 1669, the Dutch East India Company was the richest private company in the world; with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees and a private army of 10,000 soldiers. It had almost absolute ruling power in Dutch colonies from Africa east across the Pacific.

In Cape Town today, the Cape Malay culture still thrives, especially with its distinctive food. Cape Malay cuisine is stimulating, often consisting of exciting combinations of fruit, spices, vegetables and meat. The Cape Malay people spiced up European fare with zesty sambals and chutneys. An important contribution was their introduction of the sweet and sour flavour, now a characteristic of South African cookery.

A traditional Cape Malay dish is the classic Bobotie, a curry type of stew with fruit overtones. It might be the national dish of South Africa. The Dutch introduced the minced meat, but the Cape Malay introduced the spices.  Here is the last Bobotie version I made. We enjoyed it and I’m sure you will also.

From: The Farm Kitchen, Colette Comins, Struik, 2006

Bobotie                                            Serves 6


1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 inch length of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
7 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 cardamom pods, crushed, or 1 teaspoon powdered
2 tablespoons commercial curry powder
½ stick of cinnamon, broken up

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-1/4 pounds ground lamb or beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon apricot jam
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon cake flour

1 thick slice white bread
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons milk

4 eggs
3 drops real almond extract
¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg
6 bay leaves


  • Preheat oven to 325F/163C
  • Put first 8 ingredients in food processor
  • Pulse them until chopped
  • Heat oil in a big saucepan
  • Add processed ingredients
  • Fry until onion is soft
  • Remove and put into a large bowl
  • Add the ground meat and next 4 ingredients to the bowl
  • In a separate bowl soak bread in  milk
  • Squeeze out the liquid and add the bread to the meat mixture, reserving liquid

  • Pack the meat mixture into an 8x12 inch rectangular casserole dish
  • Beat eggs into the reserved milk
  • Add almond extract and nutmeg
  • Pour milk mixture over meat mixture
  • Arrange the bay leaves on the top
  • Bake for one hour until firm to the touch

This fragrant beauty is now ready to serve. Traditionally it is served with yellow rice but that’s up to you. A green salad would be a nice accompaniment as well.

Prepare this wonderfully tasty dish and see for yourself why Cape Malay fare is recognized far and wide as an unparalleled aspect of South African culture, via Indonesia.

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