Food: Executive Relief, March 2001

Easy posh dinners for people who value their time. This feast from Franco Taruschio.

Virginia Hume

Topics Politics

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If you love good food and entertaining, but have better things to do than pore over recipe books, make lists, and then spend half a day in the kitchen with cooker, children, and smoke alarm competing for your attention, then you might be in need of Executive Relief.

Executive Relief will feature dinner party menus, with simple recipes, most of which can be cooked well in advance. We will also compile a shopping checklist of all the ingredients needed – so, as they say, you don’t have to. You can just print it off and take it to the shops.

These dinner menus and recipes are designed to give minimal trouble, in terms of time and effort – while reaching the standard you would expect from a good restaurant. Homely, ‘family’ cooking has its place – but not on this page.

You are invited to share your dinner menus with spiked readers. The recipes do not have to be original – they just have to be good. The best, as judged by my dinner guests, will get a bottle of champagne.

The rules

1) There should be at least three courses, only one of which needs to be cooked on the day of the dinner.

2) It should not be too fiddly or difficult – nothing that requires balloons, spun sugar or blowtorches.

3) You should suggest a wine for each course.

We are delighted to launch Executive Relief with a menu kindly suggested by Franco Taruschio of the Walnut Tree Inn, Llandewi Skirrid, near Abergavenny, Wales.

The Walnut Tree was Elizabeth David’s favourite restaurant in Britain, and although it is rightly loaded with laurels from critics (the only British restaurant to get a ‘10’ from Jonathan Meades of The Times last year), do not look for it in the Michelin guide. Franco was so annoyed by the ‘pompous’ Michelin Man looking down his nose at him that he sent him packing and threatened to sue if they included him in their book.

Franco retired on 3 February 2001, but the Walnut Tree is still standing. It has been taken over by ‘the Ivy people’, with a chef from Le Caprice and the very good-looking headwaiter from The Canteen, and they aim to keep things pretty much as they are – ‘good food in a simple, non-stuffy, relaxing atmosphere’. Franco will still live locally so you can bet that he will be keeping a patrician eye on things, and The Walnut Tree will still be worth visiting – even if you are not in the area.

For those of you who did not get to The Walnut Tree in time to experience Franco’s legendary cooking and hospitality, here are three courses from his menus past and present.

Franco Taruschio’s Executive Relief – ‘Buon Appetito’

Bavarois of Smoked Salmon

Serves 5

‘This is so simple it can easily be served at a very large dinner party – just multiply the ingredients. It is based on a bavarois of smoked salmon Ann and I ate at a restaurant called Chiberta in Paris.’


375g smoked salmon, thinly sliced; half cup crème fraiche; quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper; juice of quarter lemon; 4 teaspoons red caviar

Tomato coulis

450g plum or very ripe ordinary tomatoes, quartered; 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots; salt and pepper; olive oil


Chopped chives

Rinse 5 ramekin glasses with cold water, do not dry. Line the ramekins with thin slices of smoked salmon, leaving a little salmon to fold over and trim off any that overhangs too much.

Blend the remaining salmon and trimmings in a food processor with the crème fraiche, cayenne and lemon juice until smooth. Fold in the caviar very gently. Divide the mixture between the ramekins. Gently fold over the overhanging salmon. Cover with a piece of greaseproof paper, then a sheet of foil. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the tomato coulis, fry the shallots in a little olive oil until golden. Add the tomatoes and stir fry until well cooked. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sieve the tomatoes and leave to get cold, and then refrigerate. To serve, make a puddle of the tomato coulis on a plate, tip a bavarois on top and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Wine suggestion – Champagne or good Chardonnay

Poussin or Quails stuffed with Grapes

Serves 4

‘This is a kind of 1980s recipe, but it is still delicious and very simple to make.’

4 poussins or quails; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 1 glass dry white wine; 60g seedless green grapes (seedless Muscat are recommended)


1 small onion, finely chopped; 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped; 6 tablespoons melted butter; 115g seedless green grapes; 1 tablespoons finely chopped parsley; 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 1 thick slice day-old bread, made into crumbs

First prepare the stuffing. Fry the onion and garlic in a little of the butter until golden. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the stuffing ingredients. Mix well together.

Season the inside of the birds with salt and stuff each bird with the prepared stuffing. Truss the birds and rub with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the birds in a moderate oven 180C (350F, gas 4) for approximately 40 minutes, depending on the size of the birds. Baste from time to time with a little dry white wine. Skim the fat off the cooking juices before serving.

Add the grapes to the cooking juices 5 minutes before serving. Serve the poussins/quail with a little of the cooking juices and a few grapes poured round them.

This would be good served with creamed potatoes and a simple green vegetable.

Wine suggestion – Gewürztraminer

Torta con Tre Liquori

‘This dessert has long been a star at the Walnut Tree. It must be made at least 48 hours before serving, but you can prepare it up to a week in advance.’

125g unsalted butter; 115g sugar; 2 egg yolks; 90ml strong black coffee; 14 Boudoir biscuits; 30ml cognac; 35g good quality plain chocolate, chopped into small bits; 75g flaked almonds, toasted; 6 Amaretti biscuits (halved); 30ml Tia Maria

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat the egg yolks until pale. Add the butter mixture and continue beating until the whole thing is creamy.

Slowly add the coffee and beat until well amalgamated. Divide this mixture into three.

On a flat tray put a layer of boudoir biscuits, dipped in cognac. Cover with one third of the mixture. Sprinkle with one third of the chopped chocolate and flaked almonds.

Dip the amaretti biscuits in rum and place on top of the cream and nut layer. Put on the second layer layer of cream mixture, then sprinkle with half the remaining chocolate and nuts and top with the remaining Boudoir biscuits dipped in Tia Maria.

Cover the top and sides with the last portion of cream. Scatter the remaining chocolate and nuts on top and chill for at least 48 hours before serving.

Wine suggestion – Orange Muscat

Shopping List

375g smoked salmon, sliced thinly

4 poussins or quail

Small onion

4 cloves garlic

175 g seedless Muscat grapes

fresh parsley

fresh sage

cayenne pepper

1 lemon

450g plum tomatoes



250g unsalted butter

2 eggs


115g sugar

14 Boudoir biscuits

35g good quality plain chocolate

75g flaked almonds

6 Amaretti biscuits

30ml Tia Maria

30ml cognac

glass dry white wine


black pepper

I slice day old bread

small tub crème fraiche

small tub red caviar

olive oil

Champagne / Chardonnay


Orange Muscat

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Topics Politics


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