Spicy tomato condiment

Everyone has their own tomato sauce recipe. This one is perhaps not so much a sauce but rather a spicy condiment or “warm” ketchup. Great with shrimps! Fantastic with fried eggs!


  • 250g tomato passata
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 1 large dried Mexican chile. Go for a smoky one, not a spicy one, as you want depth of flavour, not just heat. I

    Pasilla chile

    use pasilla chile.

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp vinegar
  • some fresh garlic (grated). Don’t go mad but don’t be shy either…
  • 1/2 tsp spicy pimenton
  • Salt and pepper


  • Sweat the onions
  • Add all the other ingredien
  • ts, a bit of water, cover and bring to the boil
  • When it starts bubbling, turn the heat all thtomato condimente way down and leave to simmer  for 20 min
  • Uncover and leave to simmer for as long as you can, but at least 1h30
  • Eat warm or store in a jar for up to 2 weeks

The secret behind making nixtamal and tortillas

Having just returned from a few weeks off in Mexico, I thought I would post something about the mainstay of Mexican food, corn, and particularly how to prepare nixtamal and corn tortillas the traditional way.

What is nixtamal?

Nixtamal is dry corn soaked in and cooked in a solution of slaked lime and water. Slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) should not be confused with unslaked lime (calcium oxide), which cannot be used to prepare nixtamal. To slake lime, you first add it to water, allow it to bubble, let it stand for a bit and then you use the water to process the corn.

Preparing nixtamal may sound complicated but is actually very simple. First, mix lime and water in a large non reactive pot, then place over high heat. The proportions are about 500 grams of corn for 1 tablespoon of lime. When the lime is fully dissolved, add the corn and bring to the boil. If making nixtamal for masa to make tortillas, boil for a couple of minutes, remove from heat, cover and leave to soak overnight. The next morning, rinse the corn in a colander to remove the lime while rubbing the corn kernels to remove the softened hulls. Once cleaned, the nixtamal can then be ground into masa.

If you want to do this the traditional way, you should use a metate (a flat stone made of lava rock) and mano (flat oval shaped rolling pin, made from the same lava rock)

metate y masa harina_commons license

Metate and mano

to grind the corn into masa. If you don’t have one, you can also use a hand cranked grinding machine, making sure you grind it as fine as your machine allows.

After the nixtamal has been put through the mill, you should work water into the masa, until you achieve a dough of medium to soft consistency.

Making tortillas

Now is where the real fun begins. To make tortillas, knead the masa until it becomes smooth, pushing with the heel of the hand (3 to 5 minutes). Wrap the dough in film to prevent it from drying. Place a comal or a heavy-bottom frying pan over medium-high heat.

Break off a piece of the dough, place it in the dough press between 2 squares of waxed paper or plastic,

tortilla press_commons license

Tortilla press

to keep your tortillas from sticking to the press, then press hard. Remove the tortilla from the press, then peel off the plastic. If the dough has the correct amount of water, the plastic will peel off easily. If the plastic sticks, the dough is too wet. If the tortilla cracks around the edges, the dough is to dry.

Tortillas on comal_commons license

Baking handmade tortillas


Baking tortillas

Bake the tortilla in the ungreased frying pan until the edges start to dry (about 30 seconds),  then flip and bake for another 30 seconds. Cover to keep warm, you’re done !


Foraging: Rosehip syrup

Rosehips are now ripe all over my local area. Here is a quick and simple recipe for Rosehip Syrup.

  • 1 kg of fresh rosehips wfresh_rosehipith blossom end removed;
  • 1 liter of boiling water;
  • 1 kilo sugar.

Boil the rosehips for 2 minutes and let them infuse for 30 minutes. Mash up the rosehips, let them infuse for another 10 minutes and drain through a jelly bag.


Reserve the liquid. Add the sugar and bring back to the boil.
Bottle in sterilized bottles.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a microbial process which uses beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium spp. and other lactic acid bacteria (LAB). These thrive in an anaerobic fermenting environment and, together with yeasts, they work together to convert raw food into more easily-digestible components, along with releasing and stabilizing nutrients of the food.

Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.


Lacto-fermented condiments are easy to make. Fruits and vegetables are washed, cut up, mixed with salt, herbs and/or spices and then pounded briefly to release juices. They are then pressed into an air tight container. Salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables for many months. The amount of salt can be reduced or even eliminated if whey is added to the pickling solution. Rich in lactic acid and lactic-acid-producing bacteria, whey acts as an inoculant, reducing the time needed for sufficient lactic acid to be produced to ensure preservation.

During the first few days of fermentation, the vegetables are kept at room temperature; afterwards, they must be placed in a cool, dark place for long-term preservation. A room temperature of about 22 C will be sufficient to ensure a lactic-acid fermentation in about two to four days. More time will be needed if your kitchen is colder and less if it is very warm. After two to four days at room temperature, the jars should be placed in a dark, cool spot, ideally one with a temperature of about 4 C. In days gone by, crocks of lacto-fermented vegetables were stored in root cellars or caves. The top shelf of your refrigerator will do.

It is important to use the best quality organic vegetables, sea salt and filtered or pure water for lacto-fermentation. Lactobacilli need plenty of nutrients to do their work. If the vegetables are deficient, the process of fermentation will not proceed. Likewise if the salt or water contains impurities, the quality of the final product will be jeopardized.

Homemade Preserves Jars Eating Pickled Cucumbers

About one inch of space should be left between the top of your vegetables with their liquid and the top of the jar, as the vegetables and their juices expand slightly during fermentation. Jars should then be closed very tightly. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product.

Sauerkraut Recipe

  • 3 large heads of cabbage
  • 3 green apples
  • 5 large carrots
  • sea salt


  1. Prepare a large non-reactive vessel such as a bowl or a crock. Prep cabbage by removing any outer leaves with bad spots, halving, and coring. Thinly slice cabbage. Place in bowl with a couple of generous sprinklings of sea salt.
  2. Core apples, slice thinly, and then cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to cabbage with another small sprinkling of salt.
  3. Cut carrots in half length-wise and then into thirds length-wise. Dice and add to cabbage-apple mixture. Mix all ingredients very well.
  4. If it is a bit bland add more salt and mix well until it tastes of a well-salted vegetable.
  5. Place in bowl or crock and place a plate, bowl, or other non-reactive dish that fits just inside the vessel. On top of that dish place a few clean, heavy, non-reactive objects. These will weight the plate or dish down which will allow the vegetables to stay below the level of the brine. Cover the whole lot with a clean kitchen towel to keep bugs out.
  6. After about 24 hours check to make sure that a brine has formed in order to cover the cabbage. If not, prepare a brine by combing 1 pint of water and 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Remove the weights and dish and pour brine over kraut. Place dish and weights back on top of kraut and cover again with towel.
  7. Allow to culture at a cool room for at least four days. If you are culturing in a cellar or basement then you can simply allow it to continue to culture for weeks and months, removing any impurities that come to the surface of the brine. If you are doing it at room temperature then after it has cultured for 4-7 days you can transfer it to jars for storage in a cellar or refrigerator.

Pickled Cucumber Vegetable Green Cucumber Food

Pickled Cucumbers

  • 4-5 pickling cucumbers or 15-20 gherkins
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt)
  • 1/4 litre filtered water
  • 4 or 5 grape or oak leaves


  1. Make a brine from 5 tablespoons of fine-grained sea salt and two quarts of hot water. Allow to cool before using.
  2. Meanwhile wash your cucumbers and grape leaves really well and allow to soak in some cold water.
  3. At the bottom of a 1/2 gallon jar add a generous amount of dill, two grape leaves, a few cloves of peeled garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
  4. Start packing the largest cucumbers vertically in the bottom half of the jar so that they fit tightly. Add another layer of dill, grape leaves, garlic, and spices.
  5. Layer in the smaller cucumbers horizontally or vertically, however you can best pack them in tight, leaving a good 1 1/2 – 2 inches of head space. Add one more layer of dill and red pepper flakes.
  6. Pour the brine over the cucumbers until completely covered. Place a grape leaf over top of the cucumbers and dill so that it keeps them under the brine level. Make sure there is at least an inch between the brine and the top of the jar.
  7. Place the jar lid on tightly and leave at room temperature for 3-5 days, depending on the temperature. If is really warm (above 25), three days is enough. If it is cooler, leave them for another day or two, or until the brine is bubbly and cloudy.
  8. During this time, “burp” the jars every day to release some of the pressure.
  9. Place in the refrigerator or other cold storage facility. Eat them right away or leave them to age which will produce an even better flavor and you can enjoy them in the dead of winter.


Key aspects!

  1. Use large jars. Unless you have tiny cucumbers, 1,5 or 3 litre jars are the right size.
  2. Keep your cucumbers whole.  Pickled slices tend to turn mushy. Whole cucumbers keep their crunch much better.
  3. Make your brine ahead of time using boiling water. The ratio should be 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt per 1/4 liter of water. Be sure to allow the brine to cool completely.
  4. Use grape or other leaves to keep them crunchy. Grape or oak leaves contain tannins that work to keep your cucumbers crunchy.
  5. Do NOT overfill your jars and do “burp” them. Leaving headspace allows the brine to bubble up without exploding the jars. Loosen the lids once or twice a day and allow some of the fermentation gas to escape, to prevent an excessive buildup of pressure inside the jar.
  6. Do use various sized cucumbers. Fitting the cucumbers into the narrow jars can be a challenge if they are too big. Layering seasonings at the bottom of the jar followed by a layer of larger cucumbers standing straight up followed by another layer of seasonings and then a bunch of smaller cucumbers works well.

General lessons

  1. Do not use too much salt. Most of the fermented vegetable recipes you find around the net use too much salt. When you are mixing up your vegetables to culture taste them. They shouldn’t taste of salt. They should taste like vegetables that have been salted generously, not obnoxiously.
  2. Do not ferment in warm temperatures. Don’t place jars next to the radiators to ferment. Fermenting at around 15 C allows vegetables to stay crisp and the slower fermentation time develops better flavor.
  3. Do not make it harder than it needs to be. Recipes are great if you’re first starting out, but if your first few experiences with involve tedious amounts of unnecessary chopping, grating, or pounding of ten different ingredients then you’re not likely to do it again.

Essential dishes: “Fish Soup”

At “Anchovies and Eclairs“, we believe that it is possible to eat better and tastier food, and spend less in the process. How? By buying simpler products and learning to cook the right dishes.

We are launching here a series of blog posts which will focus on what we consider to be “key” dishes, that everyone should be able to prepare, and which can become the basic building blocks of a healthier and tastier lifestyle.

“I live on good soup, not on fine words.”

We are starting the series with Fish Soup. Full of flavour, heartwarming, totally basic or excessively classy, fish soup can be prepared using almost free ingredients, such as fish bones, carrots and tomatoes. The recipe we are sharing here is based on several recipes originating from France, Sweden and Scotland.

Fish Soup

  • 300 grams of red mullets or other small fish (avoid fatty fish such as salmon or sardines)
  • 300 grams of green crabs
  • fish bones & fish heads
  • 200g of carrots, chopped
  • 100g of onion, chopped
  • 50 grams celery, chopped
  • 1 large floury potato
  • 1 garlic clove
  • a large table spoon of concentrated tomato paste
  • a small pinch of pimenton (smoked if you have it) or cayenne pepper
  • a dash of cognac, armagnac or peaty whisky
  • 60g tomato puree
  • 1,5 liter of fish stock
  1. Clean and gut the fish, then chop them into small pieces. Make sure not to discard the livers of the red mullets. Rinse the fish bones. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, fry the fish, fish bones, fish heads, and crabs.
  2. Once your fish is nicely coloured, add the alcohol of your choice to the pan and set it alight.

    Fish Soup

  3. Add the tomato puree, mix well, cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the aromatic elements (onion, carrots, celery, garlic), mix well.
  5. Crush the crabs (using the end of a rolling pin).
  6. Add your fish stock (or water) and the diced potato. Do not overwater your fish mix. If the soup is too thick, you can always dilute it with a bit of stock at the end.
  7. Once the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, pour it into a food processor and blitz until smooth, including the crabs and fish bones.
  8. Sieve the soup, making sure you squeeze out all the juices.
  9. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Dry salted celeriac condiment

  • 1 small good quality celeriac
  • 2 kg sea salt


Salt-baking is the starting point of the idea. In this case, the celeriac is not baked but rather salt-dried and “mummified” into becoming a condiment. The process can probably be applied to other (root) vegetables, I’ll try that and share the results in an ulterior post.

Wash and dry the celeriac, bury it completely in salt. Store for approximately 3-4 weeks at room temperature, turning occasionally. Once it has dried and shriveled significantly, remove from the salt, wash well and, if needed, put in a dehydrator or oven at 50°C to complete the drying process. The celery root needs to be rock-hard.

Store the celery root at room temperature and use it as a salt seasoning, for example, over mushrooms or beef.  Grate directly over the desired ingredient.

Let’s burn food!

The kitchen at Mugaritz (by Krista – CC license)

When you look at what Michelin-starred top chefs are doing these days, it looks like everyone is into burning food. Ash is on the menu at NOMA, with celeriac rubbed in hay ash and cooked in salt-crust pastry and at MUGARITZ, with an interesting dish of brined squid and ginger, garlic paste and a broth of burnt vegetables, as well as a grilled toast of bone marrow with herbs and radish ash.

Mugaritz – Dices of brined squid, ginger garlic paste and a broth of burnt vegetables

At NOMA, MUGARITZ and EPICURE, and some others, burnt leeks can be found on the menu, as the humble leek appears to be one of the most “burnable” products available. Heston Blumental makes hay-smoked mackerel, layering hay and mackerel fillets in a fish barbecue clamp and then blowtorching the hay-fish sandwich…

Danish chef Christoffer Hruskova does beef fillet in burnt hay. He burns 500g of hay until black, blends it into a fine powder and rolls his cooked fillet of beef in the hay.

Mugaritz – Grilled toast of bone marrow with herbs and radish ash

Using a slightly less direct approach, Pascal Aussignac, at CLUB GASCON, makes a juniper ash flavoured olive oil. He roasts 10g of juniper berries, uses a blowtorch to make juniper ash and then mixes it with 400ml of olive oil.

Adam Byatt, at TRINITY, simmers partridge, adds hay to the pan, sets it alight “to get the smoky notes coming through” and finishes cooking it in the oven.

Tom Sellers, at STORY, does a dish of burnt onion, apple, gin and thyme.

Clément Leroy, at AUBERGE DU JEU DE PAUME (2 Michelin stars), cooks “burnt mackerel & pink radish”. The fish is marinated in salt and vinegar before being lightly blowtorched. The flavor is more progressive than if the flesh had been smoked and the product retains its almost raw and unadulterated nature.

“It is a technique of Japanese origin named yakisaba, explains Leroy, yaki means “grilled” and saba “mackerel”.


Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen, at GREENHOUSE, uses burning branches of juniper for cooking shellfish on. He also burns liquorice root until it turns amberish and roast carrots on it. As he says, “There’s so much you can do. There are no rules. Last year I got some reindeer moss and smoked that with hay and it smelt like the woodland when it came out with the venison.”

At YLAJALI (Oslo), the menu includes (or included as the restaurant is apparently closed) three “burnt” dishes: grilled leek, hazelnuts, cress & löjrom with Røros sour cream; quail eggs glazed in brown butter and leek ashes, with potatoe and leek ash chips; and mussels baked with hay (which makes me think of picnics on the beach in Brittany, with mussels carefully positioned in a single layer on a plank, then covered in hay or straw, which you set fire to).

At EPICURE (Hotel Bristol), Eric Fréchon (3 Michelin stars) cooks “grilled leeks from Ile-de-France, seaweed butter, tartare of oysters, white pear, spring onion and lemon”.

Huge leeks, as black as charcoal, are used as containers and contain a mix of the leek’s creamy pulp, whole oysters, oyster tartare, spring onions and toasted rye bread.

To round things off, here’s an interesting little recipe which I encourage you to try: Burnt onion butter

Chop a small onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until dark brown and very soft. Let cool. Mix the butter and caramelized onion, season with salt and transfer to ramekin, smoothing the top. Meanwhile, oven grill sliced onions on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until dry and completely blackened. Once cool, grind to a powder and finish by dusting the butter with your burnt onion powder.