Pasta with sardines, pine nuts and prunes

If that’s not alliterative for you, change to ‘Pescatorial pasta with pine nuts and prunes’

We used to buy a lot of tinned tuna here in Geneva because it’s so much cheaper than fresh fish. We’d get the posh tins from Globus. But I wondered recently why sardines might not be at least as good and a whole lot cheaper. Tinned, that is. The kind of recipe that follows is normally prescribed for fresh sardines but they are expensive here too.

Ingredients for two

  • can of sardines in olive oil
  • a couple of shallots peeled and chopped
  • some fresh fennel bulb: discard outer coarse layer and very finely shave what’s left
  • some garlic peeled and chopped
  • 1 chilli washed and chopped
  • a handful of pine nuts toasted in a dry pan
  • some soft prunes – those packets last for ages in the fridge – chopped
  • parsley off the stem and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


While the pasta is cooking, drain the olive oil from the sardines and heat. Gently fry the shallots, fennel, garlic and chilli until shallots are softened. Stir in the sardines and chopped prunes, breaking up the sardines as you do so.

Let that sit on low heat until the pasta is cooked. Drain it and toss it through the sauce, adding most of the parsley and pine nuts. Mix thoroughly.

Serve on plates and top with the last of the parsley and pine nuts.

For next time: I like to try the basic idea before getting fancy. Next time I would add more fennel, it was too subtle today. White wine may add some good depth of flavour that would contrast well with the fish.

Some people add saffron to this dish, but that’s if it’s made with fresh sardines. Tinned, they are too strong for this subtle flavouring. Save the saffron for something else.

I don’t see cheese, grated or even shaved adding to this dish.

Zucchini fritters with garam masala and a raita

For two people.

For the fritters/pancakes

  • four small-medium zucchinis, topped, tailed and grated
  • an egg, beaten
  • garam masala
  • plain flour with a little baking powder added
  • milk
  • salt and pepper
  • oil/ghee

Mix the grated zucchini with a little salt, leave for 5-10 minutes and squeeze to remove some moisture, which I added to a soup I happened to be making.

Mix in other ingredients, quantities being rather a matter of opinion how you want these to turn out. I went more for pancake than fritter, ie a bit sloppy. Remember that you have already added some salt when you are seasoning.

I shallow fry with as little oil as possible in a non-stick pan. It should make about 7 small pieces, each one is maybe two dessert spoons full.

For the raita: I mixed a large grated carrot with about a cup of natural yoghurt and added a little salt and pepper. Mix. Just before serving heat a little oil in a small non-stick pan, when hot add a teaspoon (or more) of cumin seeds and chilli powder to taste, swirl once or twice, don’t burn!! Tip over the yoghurt/carrot, mix in.


Chicken in Red Wine

I’ve been the recipient of many a dish of this as it’s one of Manny’s regular offerings. It’s a relatively time-consuming affair, you flour the chicken, fry it, separately fry a whole lot of shallots, eventually the whole thing comes together and meanwhile he serves it with vegetables done in the oven with rosemary and garlic, which also takes a while. Lots of chopping.

However, he’s too busy all the time to cook now. Hence this extremely pared down, low effort version by me.


  • chicken pieces as you please – NOT breasts!!
  • red wine
  • onions finely chopped
  • garlic finely chopped
  • ghee (or butter, or olive oil, or other oil as you prefer or have available)


I used thighs, drumsticks and wings. Wings will add to the thickening of the sauce, though my sauce is runny. For 2 x drumsticks, 2 times thighs and 5 wings I used about a third of a bottle of wine. Jacobs Creek, readily available in Geneva.

Heat a wide pan, add the ghee and when hot add the onions. Fry until quite soft, don’t burn. Add garlic towards the end. Throw in the chicken pieces and brown, turning. Now the red wine, bring to a bubbling boil, let it reduce a bit, cover the pan, turn to a simmer. You can turn the pieces a few times and/or baste, as the liquid won’t cover the chicken.

It made such an excellent lunch, it’s hard to believe that it will probably be even better tonight for left-overs.

Vegetables: in the olden days when Manny cooked this, we had potatoes, carrots and maybe brussel sprouts in garlic, rosemary and olive oil, done in the oven on a tray. Divinely good,  makes a meal on its own. I boiled baby potatoes and topped and stemmed green beans which were steamed and then quickly sauted at the finish in butter in which I’d toasted almond slivers. Needless to say, mash is perfect.

Options: I think a very simple risotto – garlic, parsley, lemon, chicken stock if you have it – is a great on-the-side for this. But having some cooked Jasmine rice in the fridge, I fried finely chopped garlic in a little butter (non-stick pan), added the cooked rice, and then the parsley. The juice of half a lemon was stirred through just before serving. Almost as good and much less work.

Tips: hard to overdo the onion in this. You want to fry them until they are soft without browning. This will have a thickening the sauce effect, along the lines of how Indian sauces are done. The original dish in our house had whole shallots fried separately and then added. I think that again, finely chopping shallots and then frying them until very soft before adding the wine, will be better from a melding into the sauce point of view. And shallots cook much more quickly than onions, useful to know if you are in a hurry.

The moral of the story being sometimes shortcuts work.






Honey Mustard Chicken Wings

Belinda Jeffery’s 100 favourite recipes is a book well used in my kitchen. It doesn’t all work, but I’m always willing to give her ideas a shot and more often than not they get the thumbs up.

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to bake marinated wings and tried these. It’s hard to decide to make them because the recipe sits next to one she calls ‘the simplest and best sticky chicken wings’. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to bypass it on the basis of missing a critical ingredient. So there I was making the less than best….but still good.


  • chicken wings
  • 3/4 cup clear runny honey
  • 1/2 a cup of Dijon mustard
  • 2.5 tblsps dry white wine
  • 2.5 tablsps olive oil
  • 2 tblsps red wine vinegar
  • 1 tblesp finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
  • salt to taste


Mix the ingredients, and let marinate for a few hours or overnight. Heat oven to 200C, place wings and the marinade in a roasting tray, spread out. Baste during cooking, they will take an hour.

Jeffrey cooks these with kumara. We had them with a soba noodle salad and a cold spinach-sesame dish.

Belinda J chicken wing marinade

Chickpea and carrot salad

There are many recipes available for this combination. I started with this from manella on allrecipes and made a couple of changes based on my available ingredients.


  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • 3 tblsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed. I peeled them too.
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • fresh coriander leaves washed and chopped in lieu of parsley
  • 2 teasp ground dhanna jeera mix 60% coriander 40% cumin in lieu of ground cumin
  • spring onion, one white finely chopped


Thoroughly whisk all ingredients except the carrot and chickpeas, which are then added. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.

Fabulous and the bit that was left over was great for b/f in the morning.

Served it with potato salad and a cold green beans dish. Worked really well as a combination.

three salads

orange and carrot soup

Another cold soup we have quite often in summer. Shopping around for ideas for carrot, I came upon Linda Peek’s recipe. Unlike the cucumber and yoghurt soup this one has some cooking involved.


  • 500g or so carrots, peeled and diced
  • one large onion, peeled and chopped
  • ghee (or oil/butter)
  • 3 cups or so of chicken stock (or something to make it vegetarian)
  • around 2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • salt and pepper


Fry the onion  in the ghee and when soft, add the carrots and stock. Bring to boil and then simmer until the carrot is cooked. Cool, puree and add the juice. Season. Chill in the fridge.

Serve cold.

Linda Peek has been attending to her food blog for seven years and it’s well worth a visit. She’s eaten her way around the world and tells this hilarious story of finding herself in Canberra:

In 1975 I married Matthew, an Australian diplomat, resigned from the Foreign Office and moved to Australia.  We arrived in Canberra on a cold, blustery morning in early June in a Fokker Friendship.  As I walked up to the prefabricated building which served as an airport lounge in those days I couldn’t believe I was in a capital city.  From a culinary point of view Canberra was nothing to write home about either.  I will never forget one of our first meals in a restaurant where we both ordered steak.  “Wouldn’t you like to know how we’d like them cooked?” Matthew enquired.  “You can tell me if you like” replied the bored waitress, “but it won’t make any difference”.  And she was right.  Fortunately Canberra has come a long way since then.

Indeed it has.

cucumber and yoghurt soup

Cold soups in summer. Mmmmm. There are any number of variations of this online. I would generally use lemon because it’s more likely to be in my kitchen and if I had it about, I’d add fresh coriander to the herb mix.


  • cucumber, washed, unpeeled, cut into chunks
  • plain natural Greek yoghurt
  • parsley
  • mint
  • chives
  • salt
  • fresh chilli
  • garlic
  • finely peel the lime and very finely dice. The juice is for the soup, the peel to decorate the top.
  • ground roasted cumin
  • a little olive oil


Puree all ingredients except the lime peel, cumin and olive oil. Leave in the fridge for a while, let the flavours mingle.

Mix the olive oil in, put soup in bowls, sprinkle the lime peel and cumin on top.



cucumber soup (2)




One can enter any number of disputes as to the right way to make hummus. I haven’t made it for ages, but looked up a Malouf recipe in order to arrive at the following. Ideally you would use dried, soaked and cooked chickpeas, but at a moment’s notice, you can do this….

hummus (2)


  • 1 can chickpeas, thoroughly drained and rinsed
  • 100 ml tahini
  • 1 small clove of garlic mashed with 1 teasp of salt
  • lemon juice – I used lime because it was what I had, one in all
  • water


  • do skin the chickpeas, it makes all the difference
  • with a stick blender (or such like) blend to a cream, adding water because it will be too thick

That’s it. Refrigerate. Serve with a little olive oil and freshly ground pepper on top.

We’ve been eating it for breakfast on bread from the fabulous Christophe Berger with cheese, soft hard-boiled eggs and other accompaniments.

Actually, we’ve been eating it for lunch too. Today I tried adding yoghurt and it is a great variation, lighter and creamier.  I read somewhere that pureeing olives into it is another good touch, yet to be tried in our household. Also cumin.

Now, if only I had a way of charring eggplants here to make baba ganoush….

The economy of chicken pieces

I prefer chicken pieces to whole chickens as I never feel like breast is indispensable. A packed of what Americans call Maryland pieces, 4 x thigh + drumstick, lasts two of us for several meals.

This last time I’ve made

  • Chicken salad with rocket, walnuts and apple in a yoghurt based dressing (no oil).
  • Japanese soup noodles
  • A variation on each of the above

Because I boil the chicken, I have a good quality stock to do something with as well. It was the basis for the soup noodles on this occasion.

Good quality chicken in Geneva is wildly expensive, so I use bog standard from Manor. (Although in Australia I buy organic, free range.) But that aside, best quality fruit, best quality nuts, and salad greens. I think you get more for your money if you have to make these choices.

And the salad dressing will be happy with types of things in the cupboard and the fridge. This time, some yoghurt, some cumquat chutney I’d brought back from Australia, a little Worcestershire sauce, a little Japanese rice vinegar, some English mustard powder mixed into a paste, and then the main dressing added to it slowly until it was thin enough to add to the dressing without it not mixing in properly. That was about it.