Archive | February 2013

Red wine Jelly with frosted grapes

This recipe should really have been posted last Monday to compensate for my absence from my Blog for more than one week. Jo and I decided from one moment to the next to make a 13 hour car journey (one way) to visit both our daughters in their respective Colleges in another part of India.

But more about this in my next post.

This recipe was given to me by Farial, a dear Lebanese girl friend when I lived in West Africa. It is delicious and so easy to make but, the trouble making anything ‘jelly’ in a tropical climate is, that before you can count to 10 the jelly starts melting and if you try to photograph your ‘creation’ as well, you really need to be “Speedy Gonzales” to get a half way decent photo before you have red wine jelly juice!



2/3 oz powdered gelatin

Juice and finely grated rind of ½ lemon

1 fl oz brandy

2 Tbsp water

½ pint dry Spanish (or any other) red wine

8 level Tbsp redcurrant jelly (optional and if available)

4 oz sugar



Put gelatin into a bowl with lemon juice, brandy and 2 Tbsp water and stand for 10 minutes to soften. Put remaining ingredients into a saucepan; bring to the boil, boil for 5 minutes then strain. Add softened gelatin, stir until dissolved. Strain into a 1 ½ pint wetted mould (or any other shapes) and allow to set in a cold place.

Serve with frosted white grapes.

Brush small bunches of grapes with lightly beaten egg white, sprinkle with caster sugar and stand in a cold place for about 1 hour to harden.





Peaceful Sunday

To all of you who may be sick, or housebound because of blizzards, torrential rain, or snowed in or whatever, here is just a little bit of sunshine.

HIBISCUS – a flower which surrounds us here and somehow always makes me smile when I see them.


This is from me to you – to you! – yes, and to you! – and I hope it will cheer you up just  a little bit, in order to face the world head on again tomorrow.


Ciao, Carina 

Happy Valentine’s Day

. . . today once again I like to take you on a small virtual tour through the Lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, where their incredibly talented Flower Guru Khun Ken has created Pink Magic for Valentine’s Day.


The concept for his decoration this time comes from the Thai Royal Flower Theme – using an incredible 1860 lines of beads with the colour of the ‘Baan Mai Roo Roy” flower (Globe Amaranth i.e. Everlasting Flower).


He used the “Everlasting Flower” because February is the month of LOVE – so his choice of the ‘Baan Mai Roo Roy’ seemed very appropriate.


Come now and sit with me in this beautiful Lobby and watch the world go by whilst we are having some coffee and cake (in pink, of course).


Symphony of Talents

…… and all this in one so young.

Whilst we were recently in Bangkok, Ms. Amanda Hyndman, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, announced the promotion of Stefan Trepp to the position of their new Executive Chef. He succeeded the brilliant Chef Norbert Kostner who becomes the Hotel’s Culinary Director. I wish them well in their new endeavour.


Chef Stefan was born in 1979 in Switzerland. He started off on the long hard road of culinary excellence to become a Master Chef in Chur/Switzerland, where he studied for 3 years. He very quickly but steadily rose up in his profession by first working in some of the best hotels in Switzerland, before he embarked on his professional journey around the world to the USA, Dubai and the Philippines, where he was Chef de Cuisine of the Mandarin Oriental Manila.

He left Manila in 2007 and joined the Banyan Tree Phuket/Thailand as their Executive Sous Chef in September of that year.

 Chef Stefan is a highly innovative Chef who totally lives and breathes food – this is his all time consuming passion and his total dedication to his craft shows in the dishes he prepares for a highly sophisticated international clientele.

 In 2009 he joined the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok where he started working closely with the famous Chef Norbert Kostner, the then Executive Chef.

 Chef Stefan’s love clearly now belongs to South-East Asia – the places, the peoples, their custom and above all their unique cuisine.

He has an incredible talent for bringing edible art to your plate, but how can one ‘destroy’ such a beautiful ‘picture’ by actually eating it – a good and valid question and the answer is simple – only with a heavy heart! After all nobody likes to destroy beauty.


With Valentine’s Day not too far away, he created a most delightful Appetizer for me and for you, my friends, and he named it:

Steamed Blue River Prawns

Young Vegetables, greens and Mango

Virgin olive oil and Thai lemon dressing


12 pc or 1 kg Blue River Prawns

0.2 kg leek

0.1 kg Carrots

Half a piece of Fennel

Half Onion

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 pc Small Radish, whole, washed

1 pc Carrots, peeled and washed

0.2 kg Fresh Pea in pod washed

1 pc Beetroot whole, unpeeled

0.1 kg Green pea sprouts

8 pc kg Cress flower

8 pc Eatable Nasturtium flowers

0.2     lit Virgin Olive Oil

0.1 lit White wine vinegar

2pc Thai green Lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Method for the Blue River Prawns:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and season with salt and pepper.

Add diced leek, carrots, fennel and onion and boil for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat below boiling point and add Blue River Prawns, simmer gently for 4 minutes.

Allow the Prawns to cool in the cooking liquid.

When cold take out of the water and peel off the shell.

Method for the Vegetables:

Wash and peel carrots and slice into thin long slices.

Boil carrots for 30 seconds in seasoned water. Remove from heat and place in ice cold water to cool.

Roll carrots and set aside until needed for plating.

Wash beetroot and boil in water ca 15-20 minutes or until soft.

Allow beetroot to cool in the cooking liquid.

When cold remove from liquid, peel and slice into thin rounds. Use

a cutter for desired shape and size.

Set beetroot aside until needed for plating.

Slice raw radish into thin disk and set aside until needed for plating.

Add green peas in boiling and well seasoned water until crunchy.

Remove from boiling water and cool in ice water.

When cold peel peas and set aside together with the rest of vegetables.

Mix olive oil, lemon juice and white wine vinegar to a dressing, season with salt and pepper.


For the plating:

Cut Prawns into 3 medium size pieces and gently place on the outer left side of a round plate.

Add the vegetables in between of the Prawns; add eatable Nasturtium flowers, green pea sprouts and cress flower.

Before serving, drizzle vinaigrette carefully over the prawn, vegetables and flowers and add fresh Mango dices.

Tip: This dish can be prepared one day in advance and be plated on the day after or when needed.


(Photos: Manningtree Archive)

Some like it HOT

Yes, my friends – I do mean this! This recipe should come with a ‘health warning’. This dish is really delicious, but …. If you cannot stand the heat (and have to leave the kitchen), you will have to tone down drastically on the chilies – green and red! Although they are of course a vital part of this dish.


Yesterday we had one of our busy ‘running around in town’ days and because it was already way past our normal Lunchtime we decided to pop into the Grand Hotel on MG Road. We both felt like having a little chili kick so we ordered this dish which their Executive Chef Joseph happily made for us and he also shared his recipe with me and my readers.  And don’t you like his decoration on my plate? The Grand Hotel is on nearly every foreign tourists ‘I-must-visit’ list and not only the foreign visitors flock to this Hotel, but most Indians from the North and further South, when they are in Cochin, will come here, because this place is famous for their variety of fish specialties – Kerala style!


Hydrabadi Pickled Beef

(Hydrabadi Acchar Erachi)

1 kg Beef, washed, cut into medium cubes

4 tsp red Chili powder

2 Tbsp Ginger/Garlic paste

3 tsp of coriander powder and jeerakam (cumin), made into a paste

6 Lemon, juice of ……

6 twigs of curry leaves

6 green chilies cut into 2

Salt to taste


For Tempering

2 tsp jeerakam (cumin)

½ tsp of black jeeakam (black cumin)

6 dry red chilies

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp Uluva (fenugreek)

60 ml vegetable oil



 Take your washed and cubed beef and dry thoroughly (best in a clean Tea-Towel) and keep aside.

Take pot with a thick bottom and put all the above ingredients from the first set (NOT the one for tempering!) and mix well! After this add the beef and with your clean hands mix everything well into each other, really squeezing , so that any juices/aroma get mixed with the meat.

Keep this aside and let it rest for ½ hour.

Now, in another pot heat the oil, add dry red chilies, jeerakam and mustard seeds.

Once the mustard seeds have ‘popped’ add uluva and karim jeerakam.

When the red dry chilies start to turn dark pour everything onto the ‘resting’ Beef.

Cover and first cook on high heat and later continue on low heat until it is cooked to your liking.

It is most important however that you keep stirring to make sure, nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. If it nevertheless does, don’t use more oil but just sprinkle (with your fingers) a little water onto your Beef.



This dish is also very good using chicken (skin removed and medium cubed ).

DON’T ever try to cook this in a pressure cooker – it just will not work.

To get the very best result you have to make sure nothing will ever stick to the bottom of the pot.

This dish will go well with Appam, Chapatti, Naan or Basmati Rice.

PS: This will be appearing on our Dining Table for Sunday Lunch. Those of you, my friends, who wish to share with us, are invited. lol


(Photos: ManningtreeArchive)


When a few years ago the one-time British culinary “Wunderkind”, Jamie Oliver embarked on his trip to Italy he was told by an elderly couple at his parent’s Pub in Essex, that he must make sure to cook “Turkey Tetrazzini”. He had to admit of never having heard of this recipe. So he rode the waves of the Internet and found out all what there is to know about this particular dish. He discovered that this dish, which goes by various different names (Chicken-, Turkey-, Tuna- Tetrazzini), is also quite often simply referred to as a “Pasta Bake” – a name which I personally hate.

Ok, I admit, this is a very simple, unassuming and very difficult to photograph dish, but – although by many regarded as an ’old-fashioned’ dish by now – it has managed to get people around the world asking in the Oliver Twist way “….. Please, Sir, Can I have more……” because it is such a delicious dish, elegant and yet comfort food in one. But let’s face it, who really cares here if it is old-fashioned or not, nouvelle cuisine, neu, modern, hip, hop or however you want to call it – like good clothes, which never really go out of fashion completely – in fact only just sort of hibernate for a few years and then surface again as the latest inspiration of the new hot Designer of the moment. Food also has a period of certain popularity, which comes and goes. Who in the UK does not remember the one Christmas and the Oh so popular Delia Smith and her Cranberry’s!?

There must be numerous variations to this recipe, but I give you my own trusted version which I have been serving at my table around the world for so long now.

But coming back to the, for me at least, ever young “Chicken Tetrazzini” the story, according to Wikipedia goes that this dish is named after the Italian opera star, Luisa Tetrazzini and it is widely believed to have been invented ca. 1908-1910 by Ernest Arbogast, then chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California, where Tetrazzini was a long-time resident.

When “in my previous life” I lived for 4 ½ years in Western Nigeria, (European) food items were then extremely difficult to come by, even on “the black market”. Chicken though I was able to get as well as the occasional delivery of spaghetti, which I unashamedly sort of stockpiled for entertainment purposes. Some other small essential items were brought back from the UK in my suitcase. And so, out of necessity, this dish soon became my own ‘piece de resistance’ when we had to entertain foreign VIP’s.

One of my favourite visitors and guest at my own dinner table was the person in the photograph below.


Sir Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton. He was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963.

I was really blessed on the whole with the nicer kind of visiting VIP’s unlike some of my peers. The majority of them were easy going, kind, appreciative of the difficult situations and places we had to deal with, the non availability of sometimes just basic food stock, endless power cuts for days (and of course no generator!). Sometimes even a “bread-and-butter” letter and/or a small thank you gift like flowers, chocolates, books or even small treasured items like Malden Salt reached me and the letters in particular meant a lot, just a few kind words. Remember, those were the days prior to Smartphone’s, iPods etc. (just think about it – how did we ever manage as well as we did without all those gadgets?!) In fact I learned early on “in my previous” life that some of the nicest and most appreciative and considered guests are the ones who are really very important in their private and professional life and the others, who have just put up that facade, are the real – and how shall I put it elegantly – ……pain in the neck!!

Sir Harold was a true gentleman and one of the least big headed people passing through my life. He took time out and taught me how best to grow long green beans and tomatoes in our climate. He taught me how best to train the passion-fruit vine over my pergola and the days he stayed with us he treated me less of his temporary hostess but more of a daughter which, yes, I enjoyed.

This dish can be prepared in advance and easily and quickly finished off in the last minutes. To make life easier, I suggest just do what I normally do. I do not have exact measurements; I just go by the “look/like/use”.



4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut into nice thin slices

App. 1 lb of button mushrooms, wiped and sliced

1-2 large onions, not too finely chopped, like the bite

5-8 cloves garlic, minced

Some fresh (or dried) Parsley

Some fresh (or dried) thyme

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

8-10 Tbsp butter

Salt, black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste

A good glug of dry white wine (delicious, but optional)

Some flour for thickening

4 cups of good milk

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup good chicken broth (cube)

Enough breadcrumbs mixed with grated parmesan (or other sharp cheese) enough to cover the finished dish

1 whole pack of either spaghetti or linguini



Heat up your oven to high.

Butter a large baking dish (Oven-to-table) and keep aside

In a large wok or pan melt some butter with some olive oil, when hot add chicken and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, keep stirring. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. When done take out with slotted spoon and keep aside. Now add all your mushrooms and sauté over medium heat until the mushroom liquid has evaporated, maybe 2 minutes. Now add everything else like onion, garlic and the thyme m sauté for another 6-8 minutes or so, keep stirring. When it becomes dry add the wine or some of your chicken stock. Add more butter and flour and for a couple of minutes whisk everything together to avoid lumps. Bring your heat to high and whisk in cream, broth, milk, nutmeg. When this starts to boil, uncover and simmer on very low flame until your sauce starts to thicken. Don’t leave this alone now for the next 10 minutes, whisk frequently. When done, add to the chicken mixture.

In the meantime cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water. When done, drain very quickly and add pasta to your chicken- and sauce mixture. Mix very well and put everything into the baking dish. Top with the breadcrumb/cheese mixture and leave in the oven for app. 25 minutes, or until a nice light brown crust starts to show.


So tell me, friends, what is your favourite version of this dish? I am always open to suggestions.