A busy week in the life of a private chef

foodmenutravPhilippatartePHILIPPA Davis had an exhausting few days recently, including cooking for a Shabbat in West London, a whisky tasting lunch and photographic exhibition in a Soho car park, a wine tasting at the fabulous Whirly Wines down in Tooting Bec, working on a brilliant Dorset book project* and a trip to Nice and Monaco.

I was excited to cook for my first Shabbat, a day of rest and celebration in the Jewish week.   The Middle Eastern themed meal was to take place in a very cosmopolitan-feeling Kensington. When designing the menu there were certain rules I had to bear in mind – so of course no pork, no shellfish, fish with only gills and scales (meaning no turbot, monkfish, catfish etc). and it was also important not to mix meat and dairy so I couldn’t include yogurt sauces with some dishes in the Middle Eastern feast.

The Shabbat meal begins with candle lighting and blessings then the food is bought in and the feast begins. Here was their menu :

Children’s supper: Home made burgers, potato wedges and broccoli.

Adults: Canapés and cocktails; Vodka, champagne and rhubarb fizz; Beetroot hummus with garlic and lemon on crisp breads; Chicken and orange blossom pastries with harissa.

foodmenutravPhilippa3Adult mains: Roast bass with ras al hanouf, white wine and garlic with roasted squash and herbed couscous, chopped salad with lime and sumac; Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cinnamon, cumin and coriander with saffron pilaf, tomato and chickpea sauce, crispy onions, pomegranates and tahini sauce.

Desserts: Children –Chocolate caramel brownies. Adults – Pressed chocolate cake with roasted rhubarb’ Apple tart tatin and cream

As kosher meat is salted in order to help remove the blood it is recommended that you wash it before cooking; also you need to be more sensitive when seasoning.

The whisky tasting lunch in the trendy car park was all rather jolly, helping to celebrate the launch of an exhibition by the photographer James Stroud. The photographs were of the Balvenie Distillery on Speyside. The party kicked off with whisky based cocktails and canapés and then continued with three courses, all of which were paired with various aged whiskies. Tentatively reflecting on it the next day I am not fully convinced that it is a great idea to have whisky pre lunch AND with every course – but I am totally won over by serving it with the cheese.

foodmenutravPhilippaIn fairness to the whisky it probably didn’t help that in true trooper chef style, having said my thank yous and goodbyes to the whisky-infused crowd, I headed south for a wine tasting.

For anyone enthusiastic about interesting wines from small producers around the world, Whirly Wines is a place I would highly recommend to visit. When we arrived at the tasting there were some top foodies around the table including chefs from Bibendum, the Begging Bowl and people from some of London’s most interesting wine clubs as well as locals passing by who were drawn in by the merriment inside.

The next day my much needed detoxing had to wait, as I was on a plane heading to the somewhat warmer Riviera.

So much wonderful food originates here, Salad Nicoise ( though shockingly I didn’t actually experience or see particularly good ones), socca – thin chickpea flour pancakes (the perfect snack with an ice cold beer), daube – a beef stew , deep fried courgettes flowers, farcais – veal stuffed vegetable, Pissaladiére   – sweet onion and anchovy pastry tart and tourtes de blettes – a chard tart with raisons and pinenuts. All of which I managed to sample.

The stand-out show-stopper of the culinary tour however has to have been the apple tarts (I tried several) that are so ubiquitous in French bistros. Very simple – no spices, no purees and very delicious, they can make even those who find it hard to stop, linger for a few moments extra at the table.

So here is my French Apple tart recipe, the perfect way to end a lunch, enjoy the moment and toast absent friends

foodmenutravPhilippafrance3French Apple Tart

Makes 8 – 10 6 cm individual tarts


180g plain flour
20g icing sugar
100g cold salted butter
1 egg yolk
2 – 4 tbs iced water
6 -8 large crunchy Apples like Gala, Braeburn, Pink lady, Jazz.
8- 10 tsp soft butter
8- 10 tsp golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbs milk
4 tbs apricot jam

In a food processor pulse the flour and icing sugar a couple of times. On the large side of the cheese grater, grate the butter then add to the flour. Pulse a couple of times.

Add the egg yolk and pulse a couple more times. Add 2 – 4 tbs of the very cold water, whilst pulsing, until the pastry only just starts coming together into a ball. Tip into a bowl and bring together.

Flatten out into a 2 cm fat disk, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for ½ hour.

Once rested… Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C. Roll out the pastry to a couple of mm thick then cut out 8 – 10 circles and lay them on flat baking sheets lined with non stick paper (you will need to re ball and re roll the pastry but try not to over handle it). Brush the pastry with the egg yolk and milk mix,

Peel, core and chop the apples into thin crescents. Lay them in a pretty pattern on top of the pastry circles trying to get them slightly upright.

Dot on the butter and sprinkle on the sugar. Bake for 45 mins until golden and the apple is soft. Once cooked melt the apricot jam with 1 tbs water in a pan on a low heat and brush onto the tarts.

Enjoy hot or cold but certainly with a big pile of cream.

* Thanks for the mention! This is our Dorset book, for which Philippa is writing the menus and recipes, as well as cooking for the launch in the autumn.

Discover more recipes at www.philippadavis.com