Vanilla Madeleines


Christmas is tricky. Andy and I always struggle to buy each other Christmas presents. While Master 4 has a never ending list of Lego that “we need to buy” we are far trickier customers. Obviously, anything food and wine oriented goes down a treat with me … so in the past I have received things like black lentils, szechuan peppercorns or molecular gastronomy chemicals. And wine. And maybe some more wine.

The Christmas just gone we were faced with the usual dilemma. Andy decided he wanted a PVR but that we should wait for the post Christmas sales (no present bought as yet … this is going to go the same way as the ladder a few years ago – which was bought in April). After some thinking I announced that I wanted either a madeleine pan or a friand pan. I showed Andy pictures of what I meant (he’s not quite as well versed in cake as I am) and on Christmas morning I scored both. They were both Bakers Secret – a brand which I’ve used a couple of times before and been impressed with. I bought my dad a pile of their pie tins and they’re excellent. They’re non stick but they’re very sturdy and robust, with a good weight to them. The non stick surface seems to be of a good quality too – which is what you’d expect if you’re going to the bother of making a good pan/tray in the first place.

A quick survey of recipes showed that I could make use of my madeleine pan immediately, so once present opening was done and Andy and Master 4 were busy building the Lego-robot-monster, I nipped out to the kitchen to check my supply of almond meal and try out this easy madeleine recipe.

This is a super fast, easy, and apparently foolproof recipe. I’ve made it a couple of times (madeleines are going to be my new “I-need-cake-in-a-hurry” thing) and messed around with flavourings. On one occasion I subbed honey for the almond essence but the flavour didn’t really come through and the edges of the madeleines caught with the extra sugar so that’s going to need a bit of tweaking.

What I love about these little cake-biscuit hybrids is, not only are they quick, but they are small. I complain a great deal about the ridiculous size of cakes and biscuits in cafés. These are the perfect size for an afternoon tea snack without spoiling your appetite for dinner.

Note that putting the madeleines in the freezer before cooking is (supposedly) what gives rise to the bump.

Also, I found that my oven comes up to temperature in the 10 minutes of freezer time so you may not need to turn yours on right at the start!

Vanilla Madeleines


  • vegetable oil spray for greasing your madeleine pan
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 40g ground almond
  • scant ½ tsp vanilla paste
  • scant ½ tsp almond essence
  • 25g unsalted butter, melted


  1. Grease madeleine tin lightly using spray oil (a quick spray in each hole and then use your finger to ensure the spot is well greased).
  2. Preheat oven to 190°C (fan).
  3. Whisk eggs, salt and sugar together until frothy (easiest if you have a stand mixer). Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
  4. Spoon mixture into madeleine pan. Place (flat!) in freezer for 10 minutes and then transfer to oven and cook for 10 minutes. Allow madeleines to cool on rack.
  5. Serve dusted with icing sugar, if so inclined. Cup of tea or coffee essential and dunking recommended.

Pommes de terre sarladaises – Quick, Crispy Potatoes


If you are on some New Year health kick, juice cleanse, paleo, cabbage soup diet … look away now.

Normally, if I want do so something crispy with potatoes I will do oven roasted chips (cut potatoes into wedge shapes, throw in hot fat, cook for around an hour) or spicy fried potatoes. But on Monday, with a 38°C Tuesday looming, there was no way I was putting my oven on for an hour or so. Added to this that we’ve been eating so much spicy food lately I’m kind of over the idea of spicy fried potatoes (yes, I know, heresy!) that I just had to find an alternative to go with the night’s pan fried salmon and salad dinner.

And thanks to the magic of my delicious account, I was rescued by this idea for pommes de terre sarladaises. Pommes de terre is the potato part and ‘sarladaises’ refers to the town of Sarlat-la-Canéda (or just Sarlat) in the Dordogne département of France. My French geography is passable and to me that means almost nothing – perhaps due east of Bordeaux is more helpful – south-ish-and-middle-ish.

It matters little where this dish comes from. What you need to know is that it is good. It’s not healthy and if you don’t hoard duck fat in your fridge, it may necessitate a trip to the shops (or a change in habits). But once you’ve enjoyed its crunchy, crispy, fatty goodness … well, you won’t be looking back.

This is easy but it takes a little patience (but not actually a lot of cooking time). We made the mistake of putting fish and potatoes on at the same time. I’d recommend starting the potatoes earlier and obviously ensure you have the fat good and hot … and plenty spare as you’ll need to add extra to the pan as you go along.

And make plenty – if you have to share, the potatoes won’t stretch nearly as far as you expect them to …

Pommes de terre sarladaises – Quick, Crispy Potatoes


  • 4-5 potatoes, cubed
  • 1-2 tbsp polenta
  • 4-5 tbsp duck fat
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped parsley (from the freezer is fine)
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Cube the potatoes (no need to peel them unless you really want to) and boil until cooked.
  2. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Add 1 tbsp of polenta and put the lid on and give the potatoes a good shake. Add the second tbsp of polenta and repeat the shaking.
  3. You can do this in advance.
  4. When ready to eat, heat a generous tbsp of duck fat in a large pan over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally. You'll need to add extra fat as you go along and obviously don't let the pan get so hot you burn the potatoes.
  5. Mid way through the cooking, add a crushed, finely chopped clove of garlic and, once the potatoes are as crispy as you want, stir through the chopped parsley and then serve immediately.


Potatoes Dauphinoise


We have a big bag of potatoes lurking in a cupboard. This always happens. I spot the potatoes at a cheap price, buy them and then we hide them in a cupboard and wonder what to do with them.

As we currently have eight Dutch Cream potato plants turning into triffids in our garden, it’s time to do some long overdue potato experimenting.

Potatoes Dauphinoise (or pommes dauphinoise, or pommes de terre à la dauphinoise or dauphinoise potatoes) is hardly experimental but I suspect that it’s the type of dish that most people eat at a restaurant rather than at home.

It’s NOT health food: this is sometimes food, not every day food. But because it survives reheating excellently, it’s ideal when you’re cooking a roast or short on oven space. You can 95% cook the potatoes in advance and return them to the empty oven to reheat while the meat is resting. This makes timing a roast a LOT easier than if you try to do roast potatoes. Of course, the left overs are also top notch!

While this is a very basic, store cupboard recipe, a word of advice. A mandoline is essential. Unless you have super sharp knives, the patience of a saint and some really mad cutting skills.

This recipe also scales very easily. You just need to adjust the cooking time – the potatoes are done with a knife slides in easily.

Potatoes Dauphinoise


  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and finely sliced (with a mandoline)
  • softened butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • parmesan cheese
  • approximately 150mL pure cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
  2. Grease a baking dish well and then rub the clove of garlic around the dish.
  3. Layer the potatoes in the dish. This doesn't have to be perfect: rough layers will do fine. In between layers, sprinkle with black pepper and add three or four dobs of garlic.
  4. Finish with a layer of potatoes. Pour over the cream. If it very thick pure cream it might be too thick for pouring, in which case just spread it across the potatoes as evenly as possible.
  5. Grate over a generous amount of parmesan cheese. Cover and bake in the hot oven for around 30 minutes. The potatoes are done when a knife slides in and out easily.
  6. To get some colour on the top, finish or reheat uncovered.