Category Archives: Ingredients

Tielles, Seté

Could the tielle be the next must-try street food?   It’s an olive oil bread dough pie of octopus cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with garlic, saffron, paprika, white wine, ideally local sweet Muscat de Frontignan and eminently portable I’m fascinated by the tielle, as they are so singularly associated with Seté, a charming Mediterranean town , not unlike a Gallic Venice.    The story goes that they were brought to the town by the Cianni family from Italy back in the 1930s though it is likely that the recipe derives from Spanish empanadas.   In 1937 Andrienne Verducci opened the first commercial tielle operation and her grand-daughter Sophie still operates it today with the pastries being cooked, rolled out and made in one half of the shop.

tiellesTielle origins


This was only one highlight of a brilliant food tour by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France which took in many of the most interesting artisan food producers in the market such as Arnaud of Brown Sugar millefeuille maker, Sophie who marinades her own olives, Frederic’s superlative class extra heritage tomatoes and vegetables.   I learnt that monkfish is displayed belly up to best show off its liver necessary for preparation of bourride.

veg at sete mkt

I was fascinated to understand how oysters are cultivated in the Etang de Thau: the baby oysters are cemented onto rods attached to “benches” which are lowered into the sea.   As there is no current, the oysters grow especially quickly and become more plump. Of course, we tasted some oysters too, chewed to better appreciate their taste rather than swallowed.

Visiting Fromagerie Lou Pastrou whose owner Mr Cailhac’s family are one of only five Roquefort producers was another highlight.   Nancy showed us the polite way to cut Roquefort in diagonals to ensure no-one gets too much of the salt crusted rind nor hogs all the creamy centre over a couple of glasses of Viognier named after Thomas Jefferson.   We learnt too that Seté had become a critically important trading centre during Louis XV reign due to its position at the source of the Canal Midi where it meets the sea and many of the embassies had been in Seté rather than Paris, which presumably explained why Thomas Jefferson found himself there.

cheese sete

From Elena Arzak to Trine Hahnemann – my week in food with some of the top female chefs & more

Week started on a high with a Cava wine dinner tasting some of best Spanish cava in the world paired with dishes created by Elena Arzak at Ametsa with Arzak instruction.   My favourite course was the pigeon prepared with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and grape must – sensational.  Wonderful to taste again the cromlech made with manioc dipped in foie gras.  Favourite cava was Recaredo 2006 Brut Nature Gran Reserva – aged 30 months+ a revelation.   Also intrigued by Cava with Malvesia – subtly sweet and served with a chocolate pancake.

Lunch at Newman Street Tavern as excellent as ever with chef Peter Weedon excelling in thoughtfully produced food using the best producers.  Incredible shrimp fritters with whole  crustacea and sublime Galloway beef tartare were absolute joy.  Fish cakes made with pouting showed Peter’s commitment to using all the catch from his favourite fisherman.

Meeting with lovely publisher Muna Reyal of Headline at suitably foodie Honey & Co over luscious rhubarb cheesecake.

Amused by cheese brand Castello’s invention of smorging as a new way of defining smorgasbord.  Creatively brought to life by my favourite Scandi chef Trine Hahnemann who came up with some great matches enlivened by unusual drink combinations too.

The idea to combine a range of tastes including salty, sweet, sour and umami with balance of soft and crunchy textures.  My favourites were Castello blue cheese & asparagus tart on spelt crust with Glebe Farm Spelt beer,  Castello creamy blue with radishes and chives on crisp bread served with Bloody Bloody Mary beetroot and tomato juice, Castello Tickler with crisp parma ham and green tapenade or salami and green pea puree with an intriguing Earl Grey tea, lime and cucumber cordial.  We finished with profiteroles filled with pineapple cheese with a ginger glaze matched with an intrigued egg coffee with a foam of condensed milk and egg.  A really different treat.