On days like these

“On days like these when skies are blue and fields are green” it’s hard to imagine that we were ever in winter or in early Spring. That there were ever days when the trees were bare, the vineyards grey and empty. The cherries in our garden have come and gone, the strawberries are retreating, the peonies struggling with the heat. White asparagus is becoming a distant memory and the broad beans are starting to wilt. Right now I’m drinking an iced, herbal tea – a real summer drink. Our tomatoes are just around the corner, as are the plums and peaches. Does life really go this fast? Did spring really happen?

I guess it did because I have photographic evidence. Many weeks ago, just when we were getting very tired of winter, I planned a little spring blogpost. To celebrate early spring and all it brings. The cherry blossoms were at their best and I was playing with a few little recipes I wanted to share. A lot of our energy has been devoted to other things lately, workshop season, developing our new website, travelling. But here it is finally, a little souvenir of spring, of cherry blossoms before they were fruits, of branches before they were green. And two recipes that don’t really rely on seasonal ingredients so they can be made any time of the year. Two crumbles of very different origins.

The opening lines of this blog post are borrowed from the song “On days like these” which features during the opening credits of the film “The Italian job”(written by none other than Quincy Jones). It’s played a big part in our lives recently as my husband loves it (too much). Recently he drove to Holland to pick up our brand new Bracco Italiano puppy and according to him he listened to the song on repeat the whole way up and down Europe. Which probably means close to a thousand times. From an Ipod without headphones or speakers (which probably mean he didn’t really hear it very well – that Land Rover is loud). I’m very glad I wasn’t on that trip but how glad am I that we got that dog. So beautiful and heartwarming. We let him sleep in our bed the other night which is the first time that has ever happened. You’ll see a lot of Monte Cristo in the future.

RUE LOUDENNE

I have been talking a lot about our new online magazine over the past year, made a few announcements that haven’t really come true. But now we’re ready. Within very few weeks we’ll be up and running. First a soft opening over the summer and then in full force from September onwards. This is not a hoax 🙂 You can find us at www.rueloudenne.com The title is borrowed from our address, a simplified version.
We think of our house as a home and haven for our family but it’s also very much a house of food. A place where food, good produce & cooking is of the highest importance. I have been thinking about it for a while now, because people sometimes ask me, what is my message, what am I trying to do, to achieve? Of course I’m very fond of France, proud of it’s culinary traditions and happy to live here. I’m thrilled if people come to our beautiful region because they’ve found out about it through me. I love it when people like my recipes, find my books useful or entertaining. But none of that is really my message.

The one point I would most like to get across is this. Cook real food, then sit down with your family and eat it. Simple as that. Of course it’s fun to get a little elaborate or go to lenghts sourcing the finest produce, even growing it yourself. But cooking doesn’t need to fancy or expensive to serve its purpose. A thoughtful, simple meal, enjoyed with your kids at the end of the day has never been more necessary or more in danger. The family meal needs a home. Rue Loudenne will do its best. But ours is not a preaching site, there are no taboos, no food snobbery, no exclusivity. It’s a “house” of food which is open to everyone who likes to eat and cook.
Rue Loudenne will have entries 2-3 times a week, not just from me but from my friends, from my husband and from all sorts of people I admire and like. We will broaden our horizons, travel a bit. Recipes will be more accessible and better filed (so you can find all recipes for artichokes when they are in season etc). We’ll have current information about our events and activities, such as workshops, our future farmers market, pop-ups and special events we are planning. We’ll have an online shop, we’ll produce more things to sell ourselves. There will be a wine corner, a dog corner. Maybe even a cocktails corner.

Mostly we’ll be there regularly and it will all be delicious.

As for my beloved Manger it will not cease to exist but it will take on a less prominent role. We won’t change a thing but posts will be less frequent (ehrm if that’s possible). My idea is to do 4 posts a year, to celebrate each season. I have always adored writing and cooking for Manger but while our format has proven popular and successful it also comes with restraints. There are times when I simply want to share a lunch I just made, a story I heard.

Manger has brought us together and given me so many opportunities. Without her (of course she’s a girl) I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’ve done, no cookbooks, no rue Loudenne, no tv show.

She will forever be honorary chair lady of the food board – queen of my kitchen.

Merci my friend …

ps On Tuesday we’ll be announcing the workshop dates for 2018. As always we’ll shake things up a little bit, try new things. I hope you will like what we’re offering.

The girls dresses are from Marie Puce Paris.

Leeks with hazelnuts and goat’s cheese crumble

25 g/ 5 ounces hazelnuts, ground coarsely
6 medium-sized leeks, washed and trimmed
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
1 tablespoon salted-butter
1/2 glass glass of white wine
1/2 glass chicken or vegetable stock
230 g/ 8 ounces goat cheese (choose a firmer one, in the style of a brie)
Two shallots, sliced fried until golden and crispy
Olive oil
A handful of salad (I used shiso salad)
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the dark green tops of the leeks and the roots and remove the outer layer from each one. Rinse under cold water. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the stock, then the wine and simmer to reduce, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat, cover and cook until the leeks are tender, about 10 minutes.

In another pan, sauté the shallots in olive oil until golden and crispy. Set aside.

Make the crumble:

In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts and goat’s cheese, add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Pulse a few seconds until you get a crumble.

In a small bowl,make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the olive oil, mustard and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the leeks in an oven-proof dish, and place the crumble on top. Place under the grill for a few minutes until golden. Pour the leek stock into a deep plate or bowl, transfer the golden leeks with the crumble, into the bowl, and scatter the salad (optional) and shallots all over. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Cod with gratinée chorizo

(for 6 people)

6 cod fillets
230 g/ 8 ounces chorizo
45 g/ 1/2 cup tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
45 g/ 3/4 cup tablespoons of breadcrumbs
15 g/ unsalted butter
Olive oil
Piment d’Espelette
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F/200°C

Fry the chorizo in a pan and cook on a medium heat until it becomes golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine chorizo ​​with parmesan and breadcrumbs. Add softened butter and pulse until you get a crumbled mixture.
Place the cod filets on a baking dish, generously smooth the crumbled chorizo mixture on the cod and place the dish in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Transfer the fish in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cod is cooked through and the chorizo is golden and sizzling. Sprinkle a dash of piment d’Espelette and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serve immediately.

Double Fantasy, again

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Last year Oddur and I had great fun with a little post we did sometime in January, looking back at the year behind us, remembering some of the things that stuck in our memory. Not necessarily the most important things or the highlights but the things we thought might be amusing or useful for you or at the very least not too boring to read about. The curious format we used was modeled after a favorite album of my mother’s – Double Fantasy with John and Yoko, where they take turns submitting their songs rather than collaborate on the same songs. I was John, he was Yoko and while he’s protesting this year – since it’s my blog he’s still Yoko. True to form all his entries seem to focus on dogs, or pasta or Italy but I kept mine a little more local.

As I’m writing this I’m feeling a wave of optimism. After a cold winter we’ve been having glorious weather, the kids are on holiday and we’ve been preparing the vegetable garden for spring, pruning the olive trees in front of the house and we have even lounged on the rooftop terrace at least a month early. Everybody’s got a little color on their previously pale faces, we’ve replanted the rose bushes that the dogs ate (actually we re- re planted them as the dogs also got the ones we planted first) and we’re looking so forward to everything that’s coming our way – not least our new website that we hope to have ready this spring.

Before we get on with the double “album” I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have taken the time to respond to my call to arms. In my last post I mentioned we were looking for help and we’ve received letters in the hundreds. So many good prospects and while I won’t be able to answer you all I wanted to say that no decisions have been made but I’m on it this week and next.

Secondly I have a Manger Workshop announcement: Last summer we announced the 2017 workshops and immediately got incredible response. The most popular workshop this year (and most popular from the beginning) is the “antiques workshop” this April. I think I had to turn away close to 50 people, even after I squeezed in a few extra people to the very full workshop. I completely understand as I love antique hunting myself and there is nothing better than mixing it up with some good food and wine. So while we initially planned to host no workshops after October we’ve decided to add an extra workshop next November 29 – December 1st. These dates coincide with he Quinconces Brocantes in Bordeaux, just like the April dates.

On top of that Oddur, who finally decided to do a photography workshop in May has decided to add another one in September 13-15 but this one will be held in Italy and not here in MĂ©doc. There will be wine tastings as well and good food but no cooking unlike the one in May. He will be revisiting the setting for the story he wrote for CN Traveler this February. As he says himself “this one will be all action – not for the faint hearted, but for those who love an adventure”. ps there will be wine and dogs.

If you are interested please write to [email protected] and we will send you more information.

That’s all for now, I give you … Yoko

tajarinstyzansminni

tajaringattonero

Tajarin – Inspired by Torino

I am fortunate enough to love my work (if it is work at all) and while I prefer above all else to stay at home with my wife and kids and dogs … and wine cellar, I do love a short trip to Italy. Last year I traveled to Torino for CN Traveler (you can read about that here) and fell in love with the city. I’ve always traveled a lot to Italy but Torino had escaped me until last fall. While it would feel repetitive to recount all the reasons why I fell for the city, let me just tell you about this particular pasta dish:

Sometimes magazines like to ask people about souvenirs they’ve brought home from trips etc. But I’ve always thought the most important souvenirs are not objects or even photographs. They are memories, of course, but if you can say after a trip that it has changed you in some way (for the better let’s hope) or that you learnt something, then you have really taken something worthwhile back home with you. And that something will always stay with you and will forever connect you to the place to which you traveled.

I have always loved tomato pasta. I have made a version thousands of times – I guess everybody has. I’m actually quite good at it (and you won’t hear me praise my own cooking very often). But this one is a little different. It has to do with two things: Olive Oil and the type of pasta, the Tagliarini or Tajarin as they call it in Piemonte.

It’s a little warped that I associate this pasta with Torino, tomato sauces aren’t really what the region is famous for. The restaurant where I had it, while old and by now quite Piedmontese is originally Tuscan. It’s called Al Gatto Nero and I spent a morning there taking pictures. It was a fine experience and while the kitchen was not in full swing they offered to make me a pasta dish so I could get some shots. They had tomato sauce ready so they just threw it together with some Tajarin and when we were done the pasta sat there in a bowl, getting cold. I guess Andrea, the proprietor, saw me glancing a the bowl so he kindly asked if I wanted to taste. I did. The rest is … an eternal quest to recreate it. Andrea saw I liked it and gently said, “it’s the best sauce in the world”. Not only was this true but when he said it, is sounded like a humble understatement.

I never asked for the recipe, and I guess it’s more of a technique anyway. I’ve tried to recreate it many times and so far the results are encouraging.

Let’s be clear about one thing – don’t try this at home unless you have Tajarin, dried or fresh.

This is my version of “the best sauce in the world”.

(My wife offered to assist me in writing this recipe. I was proud, I declined. The loss is yours).

Slice one small carrot finely. Slice one small red onion finely. Pour a lot (hell of a lot) of good (but not great) olive oil into a large pan. SautĂ© the vegetables until golden or translucent or whatever words they use in recipes – about 10 minutes (sometimes I add chili flakes at this point – sometimes I also add a bit of white wine, neither is necessary and frankly the same goes for the carrots). Add one can of the best tomatoes you can find. When the tomatoes start to disintegrate (with the help of your wooden spoon) add about half a bottle of good Passata (you could of course use either just passata or canned tomatoes but this works for me and I’m superstitious). Let this simmer while you get the salty pasta water to boil and make sure the sauce doesn’t get too thick. When you have the right consistency add a good deal of fresh, coarsely chopped basil to the sauce and plunk the pasta into the boiling pot. Set the timer for 2 minutes (even if it takes 3 minutes to cook). Transfer the almost cooked pasta to the sauce (chefs would cook it in a strainer to make it easy) and add as much cooking water as you deem necessary. Once on the plate add some grated parmesan, a very generous drizzle of great olive oil to finish and serve. Hope your guests will like it.

The result should be a pasta that has a noodle like quality, with an oily (but not too oily) delicious tomato sauce, that generously (but not too generously) covers all the pasta.

If all this sounds to vague it’s because it is.

This Tajarin is an idea, a challenge, there is no right or wrong, only results … and they better be good.

vogueliving

The Como Cover

Wow, Yoko can really write a long text about a tomato pasta. But I give her this: it’s very tasty 🙂

While I said my “songs” would be local I can’t start this album with anything other than the most important thing that happened to me last year. The birth of my baby boy, Lucian. He is a mother’s dream, an extension of me still. Motherhood can be demanding but no sooner is he out of my sight than I want him back in my arms. If practice makes perfect then let’s just say I’m mastering motherhood, sort of. Or maybe a better way to describe it would be saying, I enjoy it even more now. I know how tough it can be, but I’ve gotten used to it. I also know it won’t last forever and I want to savor every single moment. He’s my last one. I love him so.

Speaking of moments, this particular one was as charming, improvised and organic as any I can remember. We had taken half the kids to Milan and decided to spend two days in Como. On our first night we had a lavish dinner at our hotel, the wonderful Grand Hotel Tremezzo, and I had dolled myself up for a big night. To make sure Lucian would stay out of trouble I decided to give him a little “drink” before heading down. Oddur came in and immediately went for his phone. “This is too beautiful he said”. At first I protested, I don’t usually allow picture of myself breastfeeding – I guess it’s my Asian private side. But it was a tender moment and I even decided, upon reflection, to post it – after all I think encouraging breastfeeding is a good thing.

Strangely enough, that dimly lit photograph, shot with an iPhone, ended up on Vogue Living as a cover. They had seen it on my feed and while I warned them it was a rather low-res image they still decided to go ahead with it and I’m glad they did.

There are moments of pure, unfiltered happiness. This was one of them.

raimondcompilation

raimonduno

Raimond

Back to Turin. I was coming back to Torino after a day spent driving and drinking in the Barolo wine region, about an hour’s drive from Torino. I had set up a dinner date with Mimi at a restaurant called Tre Galli, on my list to shoot and I was racing to catch the last light of the day. As I arrived outside the restaurant I could see it wasn’t yet open, the cooks were all seated together at a long table and at the head of it, a very imposing, well dressed, ruggedly handsome man. I approached from outside and instinctively “drew my camera”. As I entered, without asking for permission, I starting shooting the table, focusing on the man at the end. Finally I did what many photographers do, asked forgiveness rather than permission. I had caught the moment now I had to face the music. The music in this case was a sweet melody, Raimond, as the well dressed man is called, was very kind and even invited me to take more photos. It turned out that he’s just a guy from the neighborhood, friendly with the local restaurateurs and sometimes dines with them. I was keen to take more photos of him, in better light so we made plans for the following day. This time he showed up almost in costume and sat for a few more portraits. When we parted, he wrote down his name and details and even made me a little sketch of a naked woman on the backside of the paper. Raimond is an artist and a philosopher in addition to his refined sense of dressing. There is something very noble and quirky about him, they call him the king of his neighborhood. Less noble was the fact that I lost the drawing and details but I promise to make up for it when I return to Torino. I will bring a framed photo and copies of the CN Traveler issue. Raimond, if you are reading – outside my wife and children you were my favorite subject of 2016.

The Playlist

Last year so many of the people who have joined us for the workshops practically begged me to assemble a playlist with samples of the music we play during our workshops. I finally relented and while that playlist, now over a year old, goes in and out of fashion in this house, I think it’s a good tradition. So here it is, the Manger workshop playlist 2017, I hope you will enjoy it. Some of the songs we’ve been listening to for years, others have been suggested by our friends or workshop attendees. These are the songs that get us in the mood when the Champagne is flowing freely and the night is young.

Yves Montand – C’est si bon

Dusty Springfield – Take another piece of my heart

Raspberries – Go all the way

Gerry Rafferty – Right down the line

Dalida – Paroles Paroles

Charles Aznavour – Les ComĂ©diens

Chet Baker – I fall in love too easily

Frank Sinatra – Days of wine and roses

Gilbert BĂ©caud – Je reviens te chercher

Peter Sarstedt – Where do you go to my lovely

Lucienne Boyer – Parlez moi d’amour

George Michael – Kissing a fool

Dusty Springfield – Windmills of my mind

John Lennon – (Just like) Starting over

Frank Sinatra – Watch what happens

Click here to get the playlist on Spotify.

armagnacminni2

Armagnac – A fling in the spring

I keep raving on about Italy but it should be noted that France is my first love but Italy a close second. If we lived in Italy we’d spend our holidays in France and vice versa.

It’s been rather well documented on this blog and in Mimi’s book, how much I like wine. Particularly Bordeaux wine. Particularly old Bordeaux reds from the finest vintages. I also love Champagne (that love is equally well documented). The liqueurs and digestifs and all that stuff is all wonderful but I’ve never really fallen in love with it and for that my liver will be eternally grateful. Having said that I did have a little fling last spring with Armagnac. We were spending easter in Gascony shooting a story on the region, in the company of a bunch of wonderful people. And those wonderful people were all drinking Armagnac. Not all the time, but in the evenings when dinner was over and we had all assembled in front of the fire in the grand red salon. I became very fond of my Armagnac those evenings in Luxeube and enjoyed nothing better than to nurture a glass or two while the more ambitious guests argued over the rules of parlour games they had created.

Armagnac is a type of brandy that comes from Armagnac and it has to come from Armagnac. If you are sentimental about such things, and not too old, you can probably find a bottle from your birth year. Some people make a great fuss about such things (often the same people who are ambitious at parlour games) but the truth is that the best Armagnac often comes from assembling vintages.

I haven’t had a lot of Armagnac since then (remember my pact with my liver) but once or twice for Christmas I broke my rule and that distinctive flavor, quite different from other brandy, is very beautiful and brings me back to that red salon in Luxeube.

arlesprovence

Rediscovering Provence

It was a pleasant surprise to be asked to be the face and ambassador for the French cosmetic brand L’Occitane en Provence. I didn’t have to think twice, it’s a company with a good reputation and excellent products that I have always used throughout my life. L’Occitane comes from Provence in the south and the DNA and soul of the company is very linked to its birthplace. In spring I was invited to come and see their origins, the fields where they grow the various herbs and flowers, their aromatherapy insitute and their amazing spa.
Everybody likes Provence but it’s so well-known, much more so than our beloved MĂ©doc, that it’s easy to take it for granted. I hadn’t been down there for quite a few years but an added bonus to my work for L’Occitane was rediscovering this jewel of France, guided by the people who know it best. Walking through the blossoming fields of thousands of almond trees, heavily pregnant and flanked by my daughter Louise was one of the most remarkable experiences of last year. Lucian, who was in my womb at the time, actually went twice. A few weeks after his birth we were back on the road, this time just me and the boys for a whirlwind trip. We had a lovely night at the L’Occitane spa at the ‘Couvent des Minimes’, I walked in the lavender fields with Humfri and then we had a quick stopover in the magical town of Arles, so infused by artistic charm and history.

It’s a reminder to not take things for granted, to rekindle old flames.

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Happy hour

(Breaking the rule, still Mimi here – It seems I have more songs than my husband)

It’s very rare, if it ever happens at all, that we don’t have some sort of apĂ©ro in this house. Come rain or shine, hell or high water, sometime before dinner we’ll be pouring something into a glass, enjoying something delicious spread out on the kitchen table, the garden table or even, on a clear day, on the roof. Often these moments include sausages and cold cuts, the debatable “grenier MĂ©docain”, the very salty but irresistible smoked duck breast. Radishes with butter, carrot and celery sticks, crunchy duck skin with hazelnut dip, oysters, foie gras. In summer we’ll often have rosĂ© or Champagne or rosĂ© Champagne. In winter we’ll have Champagne or Reds. When Matt and Yolanda are here we’ll have cocktails, then Champagne. Sometimes we go alternative. Deep fried things like sage or pumpkin flowers. Or popcorn. Everybody loves popcorn.

In the morning we love to have boiled eggs and soldiers and sometimes, when we have time, we drench the soldiers in a mixture of salt and rosemary and parmesan. That mixture is equally good when drizzled over popcorn and the kids love it. Oddur loves to make virgin Mary’s with the kids and they adore it.

Something about a virgin Mary with a crunchy celery stick and even crunchier popcorn perfumed by rosemary.

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French Country Cooking

Last year I wrote about the two impending births in 2016. That, in part, inspired the title “Double fantasy”. Lucian, of course, was born in June but my other “baby” – French Country Cooking only came out last October.

I have written much on this blog about my second cookbook, which is partly devoted to the pop up family-restaurant we opened here in MĂ©doc in the summer of 2015. In many ways the book wrote itself and now that I have had time to reflect I can say that I am immensely proud of it, happy that we made it all work but mostly happy that the recipes work. I always knew it would be a nice looking book but it’s only after the book is out there that the recipes start to get tried and tested, that the reviews come in. Almost every day I get a comment, an email or even a kind word on the street.

It seems those of you have bought the book like the recipes and for that I am eternally thankful.

ps: Observant readers will notice that this is not the actual cover but a similar one that was almost in the running. When Oddur was shooting John Ray for the cover (which was partly an accident) then Helmut (now Gustave) was also crawling about and got a shot at the limelight. In the end, though, we chose John Ray but here’s to Helmut nevertheless.

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Vanity Fair Magazine (France) feature, March issue 2017. Out on newsstands now.

The Insta Puppies

Oddur here (enough with this Yoko business).

Last year saw the birth of two litters of Smooth Fox Terrier puppies. We don’t really breed professionally and certainly not for financial gain (it’s a money losing operation if there ever was one). We do, however, have excellent dogs and would happily have many more if
A. Space allowed B. Fox terriers were actually pack dogs and could get along with each other (the males get very territorial). The two litters we had were carefully planned and we meant to keep at least one or even two from last year’s batch. In the end it wasn’t to be. We decided against keeping a male (John Ray who is on the cover of the book and was our choice ultimately left us) as we have three others and while they liked him as a puppy things were bound to get messy. Then we planned to keep a female but fate threw us a surprise in the form of a bitch (the correct term) called Moneypenny who will be perfect down the line for Humfri, our finest dog. Adding two females was sensitive and now they are all gone. But what fun we had, they gave us good memories those puppies of summer. They also messed up the garden but that’s another matter.

The silver lining in all of this is that they are all in great homes. Each of them found a great family, many in NY funnily enough, but we now have agents in London, Geneva, Paris, NY and Bordeaux. And many of them have their own IG accounts.

Here are a few:

@ardenpalaisroyal
@pitalicious
@johnraynyc

Others share their accounts with their adoptive parents.

Our next litter will be in 2018 and by then I hope the balance will allow us to keep one. Preferably one that’s the spitting image of Humfri which is the big idea.

ardenandjohn

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The Chicken SuprĂȘme

Last year I wrote that while this was not a traditional post I felt it needed at least one recipe. Oddur already took care of that with his Tajarin but I also have something up my sleeve. I have always loved simply fried chicken breast with sligthly crunchy skin and lately my butcher has started offering “suprĂȘme de poulet”, technically a suprĂȘme is a breast with the wing bone still attached, I just cut off at the tip. It’s even tastier and juicier than just frying the breast. Lately I have cooked this dish or a version of it for lunch, perfect and healthy for the colder months with nourishing, delicous beans and a crispy spinach salad on the side.

Recipe

6 chicken breast (with the skin), or in French suprĂȘme de poulet 

8 garlic cloves, slightly crushed and unpeeled

450g/ 1 pound cannellini or other cooked white beans, rinsed and drained 

160 ml/ 2/3 cup white wine

A bouquet of fresh rosemary

Olive oil

Fleur de sel  and freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F 

Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy sauté pan, add more olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken, skin side down. Once the skin is golden, turn the chicken and brown on the other side, about 2 minutes.

Place the beans in the baking pan, drizzle the juice from the pan all over and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken on top of the beans, scatter the rosemary and garlic all over. Drizzle a little more olive oil and the white wine. Place the baking dish to the pre-heated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook the chicken or it will be too dry.

Serve the chicken with the beans and garlic, drizzle a little olive oil and season if needed.

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The Count of Monte Cristo

This time we have no baby to announce (thank god) although I have had great fun with the hasthtag #babyno9 which sends all our friends and especially my parents into a frenzy.
There will, however, be an addition to this family in early summer.
I have wanted a Bracco Italiano for years and almost got one last summer. Having done much research and many more observations on my own dogs I am convinced that such a dog will go nicely with what we have already. The theory being that a gentle dog like the Bracco won’t mess with the Terriers and that the Terriers, while all action, will be smart enough not to mess with a much bigger dog. My own experience and the experience of others has taught me this.

Once again it will be the year of the dog in MĂ©doc. The land of wine and roses.

Moments Preserved

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TUESDAY, P.M.

Dear Carl

I’m so glad you came over the other night; it was so very nice being with you, and may I say you’ve never looked so pretty nor been more charming – which is saying a good deal! Best

Maurice

It was the last day of my book tour in New York. I had some appointments in the morning but we were all packed for our return to France in the afternoon and the only thing remaining to find out, was how much time would we have for lunch and how would we use it. Oddur, always obsessed with finding the perfect “Italian joint” (which he will never find because it only exists in his mind Ă  la “Vanilla Sky”), had this wild plan that we would somehow manage a sit down, three-course lunch, as if we hadn’t had so many of those already, as if we don’t eat like that all the time. I was more thinking some delicious street food, I was checking my sources in the taxi, doing logistics research on my phone. We do, I must admit, always fuss over lunch … and dinner. As I returned to the hotel Oddur confirmed to me what I had started to suspect when I left my men in the morning. Lucian was too sick to travel, he needed to see a doctor, it simply couldn’t wait. The first appointment I could get was in the afternoon which brought us back to lunch. I was feeling charitable so Oddur got to go and have his potential Italian dream lunch, but first he had to bring me a takeaway from Shake Shack. I had never tried it and as they say, when in Rome. It was good by the way. In the afternoon we took our boy to the Doctor who gave him what he needed and later we took turns staying with him in the hotel. From my hunt I brought back toys, Christmas decorations, turtlenecks and underwear for the kids. Oddur brought vintage Champagne and a second hand, out of print book by Irving Penn, his favorite photographer. The book is called “Moments Preserved” and he found it at the Strand bookstore in the Flatiron district. We couldn’t really go out to dinner with a sick little boy so ordering in was our best bet. Oddur went for Pizza and meatballs, I went for Korean. Sitting on a hotel bed, having his and hers takeaway, drinking fabulous Champagne was frankly pretty great.

Oddur was pouring over his new book, showing me something on every page when a unobtrusive, hardly noticable beige little postcard slipped out of the book and onto the bed. It’s a drawing of two men hugging and kissing, titled “Deux hommes s’embrassant“. On the backside there’s a touching little note. Once upon a time this note made a man called Carl happy, that night it made us happy. And whether you like to call it fate or chance – the note has no date, only Tues, P.M. That’s when we found it, Tuesday, November 15th 2016, sometime late in the P.M.

Look for the silver lining, and a Champagne toast to Carl and Maurice wherever they are.

mimi

audreyvegetables

louiseandvegies

humfriwine

flowersboucherie

CONFESSIONS OF A BAD BLOGGER

When I started this blog I did it out of love for food and cooking. Out of love for my new-found life in the countryside, love for my adopted home region, MĂ©doc. I wasn’t very familiar with many other food bloggers but I noticed that some of them, particularly those who had written cookbooks or had enjoyed some measure of success, started posting infrequently. They starting apologising. Most of their blogposts began with the words “I’m sorry” or “I’ve been so busy”. I never thought it would happen to me. So I’m not really apologising, but instead I’d like to make a statement.

I believe that things can’t stand still, they need to evolve. I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent writing and cooking for this blog and I feel that we’ve reached crossroads. Do I give up or do I give everything. It’s been a very hectic, demanding year. The birth of a beautiful boy, so many trips, workshops, wonderful people, wonderful meals. A roller-coaster ride of a year. I did the best I could. And here’s the miracle of 2016 (which was a fantastic year for MĂ©doc wines as well). My best was better than I thought. When I was young. Say 20, I thought I knew just about everything. We all do. I was, of course, wrong. All I’ve learnt is that I did not and I still don’t. But I’ve grown stronger. This year has had its enjoyable challenges, we’ve come through them all and learnt from them. Every night, as I look at Lucian sleeping I can’t help but feel “we did it”. Whatever that means. Here we are, still. He’s my lucky charm, my armour, my beacon. Life really is the greatest teacher and the greatest adventure.

This year will be different, it will be new. Last year I said we’d change the blog, but instead we’ve changed our minds. It will stay the same, no new designs, nothing new just same old. But, we’ll launch a new site in early spring (we’ve been working on this for a while) with many more contributors, new entries every few days. Manger will be a part of it, but only a small part.

If this was a trailer for a movie the voice would say:

“Food has a new home – 1 rue de Loudenne”

Stay tuned 🙂

hudsonopeningoysters

pumpkins

boucherielittlepumpkins

christmaswines

mimilucianmoneypenny

THE CHRISTMAS MEAL BEFORE CHRISTMAS

How much poultry can you eat in a month? A lot it turns out, especially when you live near the most amazing chicken farm in France, La Ferme de Vertessec. Unfortunately other people know about it too so the queue, just before Christmas is … long. On our way to Bordeaux on the 22nd we stopped by to pick up our Christmas order, poultry sausages, pĂątĂ©s, crĂ©pinettes (I’ll explain later what those are). A few chicken, some pigeons, some quails. The stuffed “chapons” of course are the stars of the show so we took 3 of those. The kids waited in the car but Oddur and I braved the crowds. It’s so popular that a local TV station was even on location filming the occasion. We were second last, 50 people ahead of us, behind us, one elderly man, with a red face, beret and a moustache. When it was finally our turn I asked if I could kindly take a photo with Madame Petit, the owner. It took maybe 30 seconds, but those 30 seconds were the final straw for the man behind us. “one and a half hour” he said. Ça suffit – that’s enough! Then he stormed out. I can’t help laughing when I think about him queueing again the next day – for his wife will surely have sent him back.

And while I’m on the subject of our region and the incredible produce we have. What food we’ve had. What wine we’ve had. Sometimes I take it for granted but oh boy does MĂ©doc have the best wine in the entire world. Christmas is the time for indulging and indulge we have. Where do I begin. I’m going to pretend that I remember all the great wines we’ve had this holiday but it’s actually my husband who is supplying the data. The 1981 LĂ©oville las Cases, the 1990 Clos du Marquis, the 1989 Palmer. The 2000 Lafon-Rochet. The 2003 Larrivaux and the 2003 Tour Haut-Caussan (the best buys in the group). The 2000 Lynch Bages and Oddur’s all-time favorite the 1996. What else did we have? The amazing 2005 Calon SĂ©gur, the 2000 LĂ©oville Barton. The 2003 Ducru Beaucaillou. We had another bottle of the 1990 LĂ©oville Las Cases which may be the finest wine we had all year.

On the 23rd of December our house was stocked to the rafters of the best food you could possibly dream up. Over a hundred bottles of Champagne, foie gras, tins of caviar lining my fridge. A huge ham waiting to be cut in the larder, bags and bags of home made stock in the freezer. Cases of wine, birds galore. A veritable vegetable and flower symphony in that fantasy room of my husband’s we call the “boucherie”. Gifts wrapped, dogs groomed, sheets ironed and washed. The house was clean, the weather was good. Even the seafood platter was waiting in the cellar perfectly ready at the perfect temperature. Let’s be clear – this sort of thing never ever happens in this house. We are, by definition, a chaotic bunch.

It’s a weird feeling, being ready long before you’re supposed to. It’s not really in our genes. So we did what we always do – we decided to mess it up a little and cook up a feast before the other, more formal feast. A bird it was, this time a big fat guinea fowl with the most alluring vegetables, a lot of oysters and crĂ©pinettes to start and to finish a divine vanilla chestnut cake that I fell in love this winter. A few times we cheated a little and served it with imported cherries which is usually a no no but when Santa Claus brings you some it would be impolite not to eat them. This lunch was so good, so improvised and so last minute and I’m happy to share it with you. Christmas may be over but good food is always in fashion and I dare you to resist that vanilla chestnut cake.

hudsonhorn2

thorirhudson

gunnhildur

hudsonhorn

mimistairs

PRECIOUS MOMENTS

Christmas is all about family, coming together for a few days and enjoying each others company. Gifts are great, food and wine is even better but being with your loved ones tops everything. This Christmas we were united. Oddur and I and our 8 children. But Christmas does not last forever and early in January it was time for our eldest, Gunnhildur and Þórir to go back to school in Iceland. One last lunch was in the cards. Something simple, probably not poultry. We decided on a family favorite, a pasta with rosemary, radicchio and parma ham. I think I found it once upon a time in a River CafĂ© cookbook. Bags were packed, lunch was 10 minutes away, the kids were already getting late for the airport, and in storms my husband saying “the light is incredible in the staircase, let’s take everybody’s portraits”. So we did, and we hugged and posed and the little girls even sang. It felt almost silly taking these pictures but now they are …

Moments preserved.

gaia

miawine

cookingpintade

mimipintade2

girls

With a brand new and exciting year ahead of us, with so many exciting things planned we simply need help. Allegra, who stayed with us for just under two years – which was longer than planned, has left for her native Italy and we wish her well. Ours is a busy house and coming here for a work experience, while often fun and always delicious also has its challenges. We need people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty, who like kids & dogs. People who enjoy kitchen life & cooking, village life, gardening and photography. People with a lot of passion and a lot of grit. Right now we haven’t really decided exactly what or who we are looking for, or even if we’re looking for one person or two. I believe that good things happen when you’re not looking for them so I’d rather throw this out now and see what comes my way. I have my ideas but I am also open for suggestions. As they say – let’s talk 🙂 If you are interested, please email me at [email protected] with your details and introduction.

Really looking forward to hearing from you!

Note: Audrey is wearing the prettiest dress by Amaia Kids.

boucherie

gertrudsalon

gaiasauternes

mimipintade

oystersintheboucherie1

oysterscrepinette

CrĂ©pinettes are little sausage parcels wrapped in caul fat that people in our Bordelais region traditionally have for Christmas. They are always served with oysters and they make a perfect pair. I guess it’s the French version of “surf & turf“. Haha!

guinefowl

Roast guinea fowl with chestnuts, apples and red cabbage

1 large guinea fowl, approx. 3 to 4 pounds/ 1.5-1.8 kg (you can alternate and use a chicken instead)
1 medium-sized red cabbage
3 red onions, peeled and quartered
20 ounces/ 570 g peeled cooked chestnuts
8 small red apples, quartered
A glass or two of Bordeaux red wine (or any of your favourite cooking wine)
Πcup/ 60 g unsalted butter, in small chunks
Olive oil
A small bunch of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Season the guinea fowl inside and out with salt and pepper.

Slice the cabbage into 1 inch/2.5 cm large strips. Slice the onions and apples into quarters, (leaving stems on).

In a medium-sized pan, heat olive oil and sautĂ© one of the onions for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Then add a handful of chestnuts and a handful of cabbage. You just want enough to insert into the bird’s cavity for the stuffing.

Drizzle the roasting pan with olive oil. Stuff the bird with the sautéed vegetables and the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.

Place bird in the center of the pan and scatter the apples, onions, cabbage and chestnuts. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle the bird and vegetables with olive oil.

Transfer pan to the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After 1 hour drizzle the pan with red wine and scatter small chunks of butter all over the vegetables.

Leave the bird to rest before carving and toss all the veggies together so they get coated with the sauce.

chestnutcake

Vanilla Chestnut cake

18 ounces/ 500 g crĂšme de marron (sweetened vanilla chestnut cream)
1/2 cup/55 g self-raising flour, sifted
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup/80 g salted-butter + extra for the pan, softened at room temperature
4 Glazed chestnuts/ marrons glacés (optional)
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, softened salted-butter and chestnut cream until smooth. Fold in the flour. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold them into the mixture.

Generously butter a cake pan, approx 9 inches, or medium-sized bundt pan (like I did), and dust with a little flour. Shake off any excess flour, then pour the cake batter into the cake pan.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden. (please note that a Bundt pan will take slightly longer because it is deeper).

You can decorate with glazed chestnuts (optional) for a more festive touch. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

chestnutcake2

OUR BIG DAY – THE BOOK IS OUT!

mimioranges

On an evening in late January 2014 I called Rica, my editor at Clarkson Potter. I had just (almost) finished my first cookbook – although according to Rica “we still had so much work to do”. The phone call was scheduled so we could go over the next steps, the cover, the title, all the final changes and improvements. But that night something else was on my mind. Not my first cookbook, which was published in October 2014, but my next cookbook, the one I had been obsessing about for a few days and nobody knew about except Oddur and I.

Rica was a little startled. “I think we need to finish this one first” she said, although she loved the idea and gave me encouragement that she’d be interested in the second book. In fact she was so supportive that she turned up when we did the pop-up, marshalled the kitchen and the dining room (that’s her holding the menu at one of the lunches – thanks Rica) There were of course a few minor details to sort out first, like buying the house that would play a key part in the second book. Then renovating it, moving into it …

That night I felt like a kid in early January, just after Christmas. Next Christmas seemed so very far away. So much to do before we’d ever get there. When I look back at all the steps, moments and the fair share of madness that went into making this book I’m surprised we even managed at all. But in those early days it all felt very distant.

We eventually managed to buy the house, renovate most of it, we did a pop-up restaurant, I wrote the book, cooked the recipes, we photographed it all. And as if by miracle the day that I felt would never come is here today.

Today is our big day!

oystershortensias

hudsonlobster

mimistrawberryfield

mushrooms

French Country Cooking‘ available for order at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

And for Canada

Indigo
Amazon.ca

cows

hudsonapricot

thoriraudrey

ravioli

rica

redsalad

Beet Salad with CrĂšme FraĂźche

If this salad were a fairytale, and it’s certainly exciting enough to be one, it would go something like this: One day, when all the red vegetables had gotten tired of reading about how healthy and delicious their leafy green colleagues were, they got together and decided to do something about it. “I think, if we all pitch in, we could make a smashing salad,” said the beet. “I agree,” said the red onion. But they decided they needed a little help. So they sent the red cabbage to recruit the pomegranate. He was in: “I feel it is my duty to help you even if I like to work alone.” The pumpkin seeds soon followed suit. A dollop of cream and some capers for contrast and they all headed to the big salad fair where they jumped into a bowl.
To put it simply, I can’t think of the more delicious, beautiful, and healthy salad. I love making it. I love eating it, and afterward I always feel rejuvenated and happy.
One note: Be sure to wear an apron when you seed the pomegranate; those red little guys are very juicy and lively.

2 medium beets, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/2 large head red cabbage cool, cored and very thinly sliced
3 endives or 2 small Treviso Radicchio, leaves separated
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
1/2 cup/ 60 g pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of drained capers
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup/ 120 ml crĂšme fraĂźche

1. In a medium bowl, combine the beets, cabbage, endives, onion, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, parsley and capers.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss everything together.

3. Serve the salad on plates, topping it with the crĂšme fraĂźche and lemon zest.

Three days to go & more recipes

openingnight

Right now I’m in bed. I have just said goodbye and goodnight to 15 lovely people who traveled quite far to be here. The last few days we’ve spent our time together cooking, eating, sharing stories and laughter in my kitchen and at our big table in the harvest room. That’s what we do here at 1 rue de Loudenne. Cook, eat and enjoy. And drink good wine of course.

Last week I was in Paris, at Colette, in a very different setting, cooking the same recipes, offering the same wine and some of the same mood to those who cared for it. It was strangely rewarding. Waking up at 5 in the morning to bake chocolate cake or orange cake in a typical tiny Parisian kitchen, then heading to the Palais Royal, where our friends from Verjus, Braden and Laura, generously lent us their kitchen to prepare quails, ducks and celeriac soup. Then we somehow moved it all to Colette where we applied the final touches.
It was, quite literally, a moveable feast.

The occasion was of course the publication of my new cookbook, French Country Cooking. It’s only coming out on the 25th but this was an “avant premiere” and I must admit that I was a little nervous. To cook for over 50 people every day, to showcase my new book that I’ve put so much love and effort into. Every day I got the chance to meet so many readers of the blog and at the end of it all we had an official book signing where I met the most wonderful people.

All this had made me think of my book in a slightly different way. And not just my book, any cookbook. They are all, in their own way, moveable feasts. To think that in the coming weeks, people all over the world will be receiving my book in their mail, picking up a copy at their local bookstore, flicking through it and most importantly, cooking from it. This Christmas somebody’s feast will be made from my book and I must say that it’s quite a privilege and one that I never expected.

Over the last year I have talked a lot about the story of the house we live in, which is also partly the story of the book. I have, however, always said that the most important thing in a cookbook are the recipes, that they come to life in someone’s kitchen, end up on someone’s plate, bring people together at the table. Any table. People and Food.

Right now we are entering the final hours before the official publication day, Tuesday the 25th of October. Which means this is the last chance to preorder it and get our little notebook.

onionsoup

mushrooms

onions

Anyone who preorders the book before October 25th will get a special, pocket-sized notebook for keeping notes and planning meals.

To receive the notebook all you have to do is sign up here and provide proof that you have preordered French Country Cooking. The many who have already preordered the book are of course also eligible for the notebook.

French Country Cooking‘ available for preorder at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

And for Canada

Indigo
Amazon.ca

plumandham

walnuts

cheesewalnutfeuillete

Here are 2 recipes from my new cookbook ‘French Country Cooking’

Comté, Ham, and Walnut Feuilleté
Serves 2

If I were teaching at a French cooking school, this dish would be on the curriculum;
it’s the perfect crowd-pleaser, and it uses so many wonderful French ingredients.
Take the best cheese and ham you can find. Make a velvety béchamel sauce. Add
some moist, tender walnuts just out of the shell. Wrap everything in puff pastry, one
of the most agreeable inventions of French cuisine, and bake it. I knew you’d like it.

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon / 35 g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Πteaspoon grated nutmeg
fine sea salt and freshly
ground black pepper
1 cup / 250 ml whole milk
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup / 50 g walnuts, chopped
8 ounces / 230 g frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
2/3 cup / 100 g grated comté cheese
5 ounces / 150 g sliced ham
1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until the mixture thickens. Add the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and gradually whisk in the milk and simmer, whisking until thickened, up to 5 minutes. Set the béchamel sauce aside to cool.

In a sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add the walnuts and cook for 1 minute more.

Cut the puff pastry into two 9 x 5-inch / 23 x 12.5 cm rectangles. Place one rectangle of pastry on the lined baking sheet. Spread Âœ teaspoon of the mustard in a thin layer over the pastry. Spread with one-third of the bĂ©chamel sauce, half of the cheese, half of the ham, and half of the walnut mixture. Repeat the layering. Finish with a layer of bĂ©chamel sauce and top with the second pastry rectangle. Seal to the bottom rectangle by pinching together the edges of the pastry.

Beat the egg yolk with a little water and use it to glaze the top with a pastry brush. Using a knife, cut a little round hole in the middle of the pastry to let the steam escape. You can decorate the top with cut pieces of puff pastry (leaves, for example) or lightly score a diamond pattern on top.

Bake the feuilleté in the oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Slice and serve hot.

mimiinthedark

silvertrays

roastchicken2

roastchicken1

Roast Chicken with Chestnuts and Cabbage

I have a few staple roast chicken recipes that I use all the time. One is simple, with
thyme and lemon; another one is rich, with a lot of crĂšme fraĂźche and delicious
herbs. I didn’t really need a third one, but I came up with this recipe because I was
looking for something festive, almost like a pheasant or guinea hen—which means
chestnuts, my favorite. Finally, I needed a way to use up all that cabbage that my husband
keeps growing and buying (because he says it’s the most photogenic vegetable
in the world). This chicken dish is the answer.

For the chicken
1 whole chicken (3 œ pounds/1.5 kg)
4 tablespoons / 60 g salted butter
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 small onion, halved
1 bay leaf
8 peeled cooked chestnuts (bottled or vacuum-packed)

For the cabbage
1 head savoy cabbage (dark green leaves discarded), cut into 1-inch / 2.5 cm strips
20 ounces / 570 g peeled
cooked chestnuts (bottled or vacuum-packed)
5 tablespoons / 75 g unsalted butter
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup / 80 ml chicken stock
1/3 cup / 80 ml dry white wine

Roast the chicken. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Rub the chicken with the salted butter and season generously both inside and out with salt and pepper. Put the garlic cloves, thyme, onion halves, bay leaf, and chestnuts in the cavity. Put the chicken in a roasting pan and roast for 50 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a big plate; it will not be fully cooked just yet and will be returned to the oven later, so leave the oven on but increase the temperature to 400 F / 200 C.

Make the cabbage. Keep all the fat and juices in the roasting pan and add the cabbage, chestnuts, and 4 tablespoons / 60 g of the unsalted butter. Season with salt and pepper and toss everything together. Return to the oven and roast for 10 minutes.

Pour in the stock and wine and stir to combine. Brush the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon / 15 g butter to gloss the skin and return to the pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before serving with the cabbage and chestnuts.

cover

2 More recipes from my new cookbook

tomatoesinboucherie

This week the kids started school again*. Again. Strangely enough they were happy about it and so was I. Not because the house is quieter (and besides it’s not really that quiet with a 2-year-old and a newborn and loads of dogs), not because I’ve grown tired of summer and am now longing for autumn colors and mushrooms and chilly morning walks. Not because I need an excuse to buy a winter coat or because I’ve had too many tomatoes or because Christmas can’t come soon enough.

When I write this blog the words leave my head and I never really meet them again. I don’t reread my old blog posts for some reason. This means I may often repeat myself or even worse, contradict myself. There is no fact checking department in my brain. What’s happening then and there just falls onto the page or into the pot and then I move on until I have a new feeling or recipe to share. Even if it’s sometimes and old familiar feeling or the same exact feeling I had at the same exact time the year before.

I have this feeling that last year around the same time I wrote that everything was perfect. That this was the best season of all. That’s how I feel now, the glow of summer is still on my cheeks and the cheeks of my children. The tomato plants in the garden may be slowly winding down but they still have a few good crates of fruits left in them. The figs are out in force this week, the pumpkins are on the horizon. The weather is still great.

In other words: there is a lot to be happy about. But for me, this year, there is an added sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. Around the same time last year our pop-up restaurant here at 1 rue de Loudenne was in its final days, early in September we closed the doors for the last time, the little team went their separate ways. All that was left were recipes and memories and stories badly arranged in my head. Soon they got restless and cramped up there (I have a rather small head) and found their way onto the page – although not as soon as my editor would have liked (deadlines are not my forte). It’s all been coming to life, piece by piece, recipe by recipe over the course of the last year. But this summer things went silent. It was the period when the book is out of your hands, there is nothing more you can do, only wait. I’m not good at waiting.

As I am writing this I’m anxiously waiting for a first copy that’s ready (my editor says it’s stunning – her words) and was sent to me yesterday. Now it’s 5 o’clock and I think it won’t come today, a little disappointing but tomorrow it’s Friday and maybe that’s an even better day to receive it. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

The question is, can I have Champagne tonight as consolation or do I have to wait for tomorrow’s celebration?

The book is coming out on October 25th, which is a little bit further away than tomorrow night I admit, and so I wanted to share two more recipes from the book that I think are very appropriate for this magical season of late summer, early fall.

Soon the last tomato will leave the stage, a stage already filling with gorgeous apples. Right now is the rare, beautiful season when we can enjoy them both.

*The kids may be happy about going back to school because with all the chores their father gives them in the summer in the vegetable garden, with the dogs and puppies and in our monstrously big house – school may seem like a vacation – at least that’s my theory 🙂

mimitomatoes

gaiatomatoes

tomatogarden

gaspacho

Tomato Gazpacho
serves 4 to 6

For the last two years we have been growing our own tomatoes in the little vegetable garden down the road from our house. We have experimented with several different varieties: small cherry tomatoes for my veal stew and for casual bruschetta, ripe green and yellow tomatoes that are great in salads. But my favorite is the deep red, meaty, coeur de boeuf that tastes so much better than anything you can buy in stores. I love slicing a big juicy one, giving it a generous glug of good olive oil, sprinkling it with fleur de sel, and savoring it. They also make excellent gazpacho. While I used to make gazpacho with cucumbers and peppers in addition to the tomatoes, when you have really, really good tomatoes, you don’t need anything more, only a little bread for substance and some garlic to spice everything up.

FOR THE GARNISH
œ cup / 120 ml heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
12 thin slices baguette
fine sea salt

FOR THE SOUP
1 œ cups / 115 g crumbled stale white bread
2 pounds / 900 g very ripe tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2/3 cup / 150 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
ÂŒ teaspoon piment d’espelette or mild chile powder, for serving

MAKE THE GARNISH. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and minced garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, pass the cream through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the garlic to release all its flavor.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the slices of bread until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Drain the croutons on a paper towel. Season with salt.

MAKE THE SOUP. Soak the bread in a bowl of cool water for 10 minutes, then drain, and squeeze out as much water as possible.

In a large bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes, garlic cloves, olive oil, and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Purée the mixture, preferably using an immersion blender, until you have a smooth and velvety mixture. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

gunnsytomatoes

applegarden

mimiblette

miaapples

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If you didn’t read my last post, or have simply forgotten, we are offering a cute little kitchen notebook to those of you who already have or will order the cookbook before it comes out next month. I have noticed during the workshops that people like writing down their own notes and explanations and experiences with the recipes and while I have nothing against writing in the cookbook itself, sometimes you just need more space. Besides, it’s neater.

Anyone who preorders the book before October 25th will get a special, pocket-sized notebook for keeping notes and planning meals.

To receive the notebook all you have to do is sign up here and provide proof that you have preordered French Country Cooking. The many who have already preordered the book are of course also eligible for the notebook.

French Country Cooking‘ available for preorder at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

And for Canada

Indigo

Amazon.ca

bakedapples

Baked Apples with Spéculoos
serves 8

SpĂ©culoos are simple, tasty, spiced cookies you can find almost everywhere in various versions and different levels of quality. I’ve always liked to play around with them, include them in tarts and desserts. They go very well with pears, apples, and plums; in summer I like to make a plum tart with a spĂ©culoos-crusted base. In the months leading up to Christmas, we have so many apples around the house that I like to put them to use, often in tarts but also on their own, which I find is a chic way to serve them. This is a humble, uncomplicated dessert, perfect for the days before Christmas, when you have no time to make an elaborate recipe but are aching for a little sweet something to round off a meal.

8 apples
6 œ tablespoons / 90 g unsalted butter
8 spéculoos cookies
Πcup / 50 g sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.

Slice off the top part of the apples, making a little “hat,” and core the apples, leaving a little of the bottom intact. Put the apples in a baking dish and stick about 1 teaspoon of butter into the center of each. Crumble a spĂ©culoos cookie into each one and divide the remaining butter among the apples, dabbing it on top of the cookie. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and top the apples with their “hats.”

Transfer the dish to the oven and bake until the apples are golden and tender, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

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2 recipes from my new cookbook

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Around two years ago I was walking the streets of Toulouse after a wonderful meal: the local Cassoulet and some heavenly desserts. We had invited my aunt, Francine, who more than anyone inspired me to start cooking and I was in high spirits as I walked the streets of the “pink” city in the beautiful afternoon light. Then came the blow. One phone call from my banker telling me that the loan everybody had told me we would get, wouldn’t be coming after all. It was complicated, it had gone fairly smoothly through the system but stopped at the top. But he wished me a great weekend. I still remember the street I stood in, the pretty rose-colored patina of the house next to me, the joyful sounds of my children walking ahead of us. The worried look on my husband’s face.

We had found the house of our dreams, and through the kindness of the man selling us the house we had already spent precious moments there, made little visits, had picnics. The kids had been scared by the ghosts, the bat and the cat. We had peeled off some wallpaper, found an old gramophone, we had danced in that house. And now it might never be ours. After an hour of some anger, some frustration, we got optimistic again. That house would always become ours, one way or the other. Then we had pizza. I even had spritz. And I don’t like spritz that much.

1 rue de Loudenne was always more than just a house to us, even more than a home. It is an idea, a project, one that will keep evolving. I knew from the first day I set foot in it that this house could only lead to good things. It has, wonderful workshops, countless family meals and moments, a long list of beautiful feasts with people we care about. That crazy pop-up ‘family restaurant’ we did last summer.

And last but not least …
… the cookbook I wrote last year.

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I had already written one cookbook but I was overflowing with ideas for new recipes and eager to include some classic ones. Oddur said the other day “that’s a good recipe I think”. I looked at him and answered “they are all good recipes”. And I mean it. Why would they ever have gotten in there if I didn’t think that. I just love this book so much, in some ways it was harder to make than the first one, we were after all, renovating a house at the same time, and raising a little girl, uh-hum and a few other kids.

The pop-up family ‘restaurant’, what an adventure. We assembled a very curious team, we had so much fun. Perhaps most meaningful of all, I think the guests who came loved it. At least I was satisfied. We set out to do something, sort of impossible, and at the end it all my goal was this: a restaurant I would have liked to have gone to and been happy I did. I think we managed that.

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‘French Country Cooking’ is my new love and I can’t wait to have her in my hands in a few weeks. The best feeling is that for better or for worse, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Like I say somewhere in the book, it’s the cookbook that wrote itself, these are the recipes I love and the memories I treasure.

October 25th can’t come soon enough so I can share it all with you.

I’m so excited about this book and of course I want as many of you as possible to have it … which means, at least in most cases, to buy it. I think that’s what any creator wants, for people to enjoy what he has made. So we came up with this little incentive, for those of you who are as impatient as I am. Anyone who preorders the book before October 25th will get a special, pocket-sized notebook for keeping notes and planning meals.

To receive the notebook all you have to do is sign up here and provide proof that you have preordered French Country Cooking. The many who have already preordered the book are of course also eligible for the notebook.

I’m very happy with this idea of a little kitchen notebook, in fact I can’t wait to have a few of them myself, very useful in the kitchen these little books. This time we had a French illustrator help us with a few images and one of them will be on the notebook, a Smooth Fox Terrier – of course.

French Country Cooking‘ available for preorder at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

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We decided to share two recipes from the book, something light and easy that everybody would like. By the way, the book is divided into several sections and these two I’m sharing come from GoĂ»ter (the special snack time in the afternoon for children of all ages) and Staff Meals (inspired from our moments before or after service last summer).

All I can say is that I’m waiting very anxiously for this book and I hope that at least some of you are a little bit excited too.

Love
Mimi xx

macncheese

Mimolette and Comté Mac and Cheese
Serves 6 to 8

This section of the book turned out to be a who’s who of comfort food—and it wouldn’t be complete without the king of comfort foods: mac and cheese. As a kid in Hong Kong, I remember reading about this exciting dish and desperately wanting to try it. I also remember my disappointment when, having coaxed my mother or some nanny into buying a ready-made version, I realized that maybe it wasn’t the best food in the world after all. But all that is relative. You reap as you sow. I still believe in the power of mac and cheese when it is done right. With just enough glorious, pungent cheese, it can still be, on a good day, the best food that a little girl ever dreamed existed.

1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, halved
5 tablespoons/60 g unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 œ cups / 600 ml whole milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of piment d’espelette or mild chile powder
1 pound/500 g dried small penne or macaroni pasta
10 ounces/300 g mimolette cheese, grated (about 2 2/3 cups)
5 ounces/150 g comté cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)

1.Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter a large ovenproof skillet.
2.Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3.In a food processor, pulse the bread crumbs with the garlic and 1 tablespoon / 15 g of the butter.
4.In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons / 45 g butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Immediately whisk in the milk, little by little, and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, nutmeg, and piment d’Espelette and season with salt and pepper.
5.Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions.
6.Whisk half of each cheese into the sauce. When the pasta is al dente, drain and mix the pasta into the sauce in the pan until well combined along with the rest of the grated cheese.
7.Pour the pasta mixture into the buttered ovenproof skillet. Scatter the breadcrumb mixture all over the dish and transfer to the oven. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot.

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figcake

Fig and Pistachio Cake
Serves 6

This is my garden party cake, the one I’d make if the Queen of England ever came to visit. She’d have to come in fig season, of course, and we’d have tea and a slice each of this moist cake. We would sit there and discuss our dogs and she would comment that fox terriers have a terrible reputation and that, in her opinion, corgis are a much more interesting breed. She’s the Queen so I wouldn’t argue with that; afterwards we’d just stick to the weather and have more cake.

1 1/3 cups/200 g unsalted pistachios, plus more for garnish
8 tablespoons/120 g unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
Ÿ cup / 150 g sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 large egg whites pinch of fine sea salt
œ cup / 120 ml heavy cream
Πcup / 60 ml mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons orange flower water
10 small fresh figs, quartered

1.Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
2.In a food processor, combine the pistachios, butter, œ cup/100 g of the sugar, and the vanilla and pulse for a minute or until you get a smooth paste. Add the egg yolks, one by one, and pulse until well combined. Transfer the pistachio mixture to a large bowl.
3.Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites, and when the mixture starts to foam, add the salt. Continue to whip on high-speed, gradually adding the remaining Πcup/50 g sugar, until the whites hold stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the pistachio mixture.
4.Grease an 8-inch/20 cm cake pan with butter. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5.Using an electric mixer, whip together the heavy cream, mascarpone, honey, and orange flower water until the cream holds stiff peaks, about 3 minutes.
6.Spread the cream on top of the cooled cake and arrange the quartered figs on top. Crush some pistachios and scatter all over. Finish with a drizzle of honey to gloss it up. Serve immediately.

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table

Workshops 2017

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Today is the very first day of the summer holidays. The kids finished school on Friday. The last dinner of the last workshop until fall was on Friday night. When I came down to the kitchen the following morning I could still smell the barbecue from the night before, the ashes were still in the fireplace – even some unwashed glasses waiting their turn. I walked into the big dining room, the one we sometimes call the “harvest room”, with copper pots on the walls, a table with lemons and Champagne, a table in the corner filled with cognacs and armagnacs. In the middle of the room is a huge dining table, one that fits up to 18 people (if they like each other – and they always do). There were still some corks on the table, a stack of breads that were slowly going stale. In the middle of the table, as always, there was an abundance of fruits and vegetables, flowers and candles. As I was gathering the last items to bring back with me into the kitchen I couldn’t help but think of all the people who have sat at that table in the last year, a group so miscellanioussly from all over – in terms of geography, profession and age.

This year we’ve had Brazilian, Turkish, Italian, German, Austrian, Chinese,French, Persian, English, Israeli, Polish, Swiss, Croatian and of course Canadian and American people.

There has been dancing on tables, photography contests, singing, dancing, friendships have been forged, tears shed. There has been Champagne and great wine tastings. Most of all there has been good food and good times.

And I have been led to believe that everybody has been either satisfied or very satisfied. We’ve even had quite a few people return.

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Next year

I had planned to announce new dates in the fall like we did last year but lately I’ve been getting so many emails asking me for dates in 2017, people (everybody seems to be more organised than I am) want to plan ahead, which I understand, and so we’re announcing early this year.

In 2017 there will be fewer workshops than this year and while I have really enjoyed this experience and will continue to do so, I think 2017 will be the last year we do so many workshops. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that doing one thing, even a thing you love, often prevents you from doing another. And we have big plans. In the future we want to make more books, we have so many projects waiting for us, which is exciting but it all requires time. One of the things we are planning to start next summer and continue in force in 2018 is to help with the revival of our village, a farmers market once a month in our garage (it used to be a stable for donkeys). It was that or a spa and a farmers market is more us 🙂

I hope to gather the best producers in the region, we’ll have music, food stands, oyster men and winemakers. It will be beautiful.

But let’s get back to the workshops.
We decided to make a few changes for next year although the format of the workshops will be similar.

The workshops will all be 3 days.

Many of them will be more specific, we thought it made sense to gather like-minded people with similar interests so they could focus on what interests them.

We have also realised that people who come here really love wine and therefore every class will have more amazing wines and winetastings. My husband (and our sommelier) has been going overboard with good wines anyway and we need for it all to make sense.

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So here are the dates and themes of 2017:

April

“The Spring workshop”, April 5-7

The first workshop of the year. A classic setup of cooking together all day and having lunch and dinner together. We’ll visit an asparagus farm, focus heavily on spring vegetables such as fava beans, artichokes, chard, asparagus etc. We’ll have wine tastings in the house, perhaps with an emphasis on white wine. This workshop will be very light on meat and suitable for vegetarians.

“The Antiques workshop”, April 26-28

Twice a year Bordeaux goes “brocantes” mad when the biannual antiques fair comes to town. Quinconces (the biggest square in Europe – well so they tell me) fills up with hundreds of tents of all sorts of antiques and various pretty objects. We’ll go there early in the morning one of the days and spend all day together in Bordeaux. We’ll visit some of my favorite Bordeaux addresses (most to do with chocolate, food or wine) and have lunch and dinner in very special places in Bordeaux. The other two days we’ll stay closer to home, cook together like we always do but each of the days we’ll visit local antiques stores for additional inspiration and finds. The food will be highly influenced by the “brocantes” mood.

May

“The early Summer workshop”, May 10-12

As classic at it gets, we’ll do it how we’ve been doing it for the last two years, meet in the mornings, cook lunch, have it together, drink a little too much … then start again for dinner. A proven formula for success.

“The photography workshop”, May 31-June 2

After 2 years of half resisting, of giving little tips and presiding over the very popular “photo survivor”, my husband will finally relent and do a full-on 3 day photography course. Every day will have a special theme, there will be field trips of course and at least a big part of it will revolve around food photography. This is where I would use the words food styling if me husband would let me. He will also give a class on retouching, color corrections etc. We will of course also cook together and have meals every day as we do in the regular workshops.

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June

“The wine enthusiast’s workshop” June 14-16

This is where we will go overboard with wine tastings and pairings, we’ll have winemaker guests, visit ChĂąteaux and have a guest sommelier with us the whole time. Read: FUN! We’ll have a fair amount of Bordeaux but also explore wine from other regions in France and even a little from other countries.
Needless to say there will also be cooking and dining as usual.

“The “sweet” workshop 28 – 30

A woman or man cannot live on sweets alone (or can they?) so we’ll cook some good savory things but this is where we go crazy with desserts. I’ve always wanted to do a class where we rush through the mains and end up having three desserts per meal.

July

“The special summer and Bastille day workshop” 12-14

Another dream has been to do a very “outdoorsy” workshop, al fresco dinners every night, barbecue on the beach and fireworks on Bastille day. During the day we’ll go cycling in the vineyards and have lavish picnics among the vines.

September

“The fall workshop” 27-29

Another “classic” workshop where we stick to the proven format of cooking and eating all day. Seasonality of course comes into it with this being one of the richest seasons of all, we might visit markets and even pop by a wine harvest if the time is right but mostly we stick to our format.

October

“The harvest and foraging workshop” 11-13

This workshop will be a little more physical than most, waking up early to hunt for mushrooms, bringing them home, cooking and cleaning. We’ll visit pumpking farmers and a beautiful chicken farm, we’ll go fishing in the morning and if the stars align we’ll participate in on of the harvests that are happening all around us this time of year.

“The second wine enthusiast’s workshop” 25-27

Like in June we will go overboard with wine tastings and parings, have winemaker guests, visit ChĂąteaux and have a guest sommelier with us the whole time. This time the emphasis is firmly on Bordeaux wine, white but mainly reds and some Sauternes. Big wines – big fun.
Needless to say there will also be cooking and dining as usual.

November

“The second Antiques workshop”, November 29 – December 1

When I announced the workshops last June I could not possibly have imagined the incredible demand we had for the April Antiques workshop. I have sadly had to turn over 50 people away and while I had no plans to host a workshop in November I just couldn’t pass on this opportunity – so we’re adding a second workshop just like the first one. As I said earlier, twice a year Bordeaux goes “brocantes” mad when the biannual antiques fair comes to town. Quinconces (the biggest square in Europe – well so they tell me) fills up with hundreds of tents of all sorts of antiques and various pretty objects. We’ll go there early in the morning one of the days and spend all day together in Bordeaux. We’ll visit some of my favorite Bordeaux addresses (most to do with chocolate, food or wine) and have lunch and dinner in very special places in Bordeaux. The other two days we’ll stay closer to home, cook together like we always do but each of the days we’ll visit local antiques stores for additional inspiration and finds. The food will be highly influenced by the “brocantes” mood.

All workshops are 3 days and the price is 2.000 euros per person. Should someone not drink at all they can be excused from paying the 500 euro wine supplement.

As before we will be very happy to recommend accommodation near my house, we have a good list and good contacts.

I will also be more than happy to answer any question regarding logistics and the best way to get here.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Mimi xx

For all bookings and further information please contact
[email protected]

Additionally if any of you can get together a group of 6 people I can arrange something outside the published dates for you, if the dates and stars align.

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Two sundays without you (part II)

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June 5

I had opted for Allegra’s neat and tidy, but albeit very small Fiat over my husband’s “hard to get into”, “hard to get out of” Land Rover that has no music, no air-condition and is always filled with dogs, vegetables and numerous kids. On sunny days like this one it’s a fantasy world of dog hair and dust flying through the air, perfectly backlit and almost pretty. Almost. We were comfortably trailing the Land Rover on what promised to be a spectacularly beautiful Sunday, following a week of less spectacular, rainy days. Hudson and Mia had opted to stay at home but the rest of us were in for a long-awaited treat. We were headed for the “ChĂąteau of Women” an indescribably beautiful wine-making property that has been run by women of the same family for over 500 years. This deserves and explanation.

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In 1581 a man with big dreams and an even bigger appetite for gambling laid out the plans for a magnificent chĂąteau in MĂ©doc. It all started well, the outhouses and servants quarters were fit for kings, the gardens, the gate. Then the money ran out and the cherry on top, the chĂąteau itself never got built. So the women in the family, like women do, found the best solution, modified the servants quarters into a most beautiful chĂąteau and have been running the property ever since, one woman succeeding another. I guess they decided that after that original fiasco, no gamblers (read men) should interfere with chĂąteau business.

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So why where we going there in search of a feast on a beautiful Sunday morning? That also deserves an explanation. Some years ago we were invited for lunch at chĂąteau Lafon-Rochet, a grand cru in the St-EstĂšphe appellation. It’s the “yellow chĂąteau” we had been seeing for years as we drove by on our way to Pauillac and it turned out that the young manager, Basile Tesseron, whose family owns the chĂąteau was married to another young estate manager, BĂ©rangĂšre, whose family owns chĂąteau Larrivaux, the “chĂąteau of women”. On that first visit the splendors of Lafon-Rochet were enough for our appetites but on a subsequent visit Basile took us to his wife’s property, only a 5 minutes drive away. Unlike Lafon-Rochet, which is proudly perched on one of the hills of St-EstĂšphe, plain for all who drive by to see (if only for the yellow color), chĂąteau Larrivaux is a hidden gem, a bend in the road, a dreamy place hidden from plain sight, guarded by a small forest. When Basile took us there for the first time we could see the excitement in his face, it feel to him to show us the property, BĂ©rangĂšre was hard at work in the winery.

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“I fell in love with my wife twice” he said. “First when I met her and the second time was when she took me here”. “I had spent much of my childhood only a few miles away but I never knew of this magical place until I fell in love with its owner”.

He fell in love twice and I guess I fell in love as well, once at least. It the kind of place movie producers only dream of or, more likely, have to dream up and produce for their movies so the rest of us can simply dream. We always hope that these magical places exist for real, that they’re not only in the movies – and when we find them…

BĂ©rangĂšre and I had talked about cooking together with our families at her chĂąteau forever. But timing was never on our side. We have a big family. They have three boys, very auspicious considering they have one boy roughly the same age as each of our three youngest daughters. All very Jane Austen. And recently we’ve both been pregnant.

But we decided to give it a go, before we’d be too caught up in baby duties, to have a wonderful feast of two families coming together on a Sunday in their beloved MĂ©doc.

And we all do love MĂ©doc. Basile and BĂ©rangĂšre, me and Oddur, we all truly believe in this region, its beauty, its specialness. We all want to do something exciting here, whether it is to make fabulous wine, write cookbooks, or do just about anything to help people discover this place. But first: Lunch!

The menu was up to BĂ©rangĂšre and the other women of Larrivaux, her mother Sabine and her mother’s sister Armelle. I did make one request though. We needed to include Basile’s grandmother’s recipe for pancake cake. Yes you read right – gĂąteau de crĂȘpes. We’d had it recently at a dinner at Lafon-Rochet in May and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It’s the most simple, most unusual dessert you can imagine.

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There were lots of tidbits, pĂątĂ©s, tomato salads , more tomato salads but it all got serious when BĂ©rangĂšre’s mother brought out the family’s cheese beignets (fritters). They were delicious. Next was the “veal bread” in other words meatloaf, with two types of tomato sauce – very Italian, but somehow also very MĂ©docain. We started with a lovely Champagne form a very small producer (so many good ones these days), no sugar added, no sugar needed. Then we moved on to the wine. The Larrivaux. It’s quite special and unusual for MĂ©doc, more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon which usually only happens on the right bank (St-Emilion, Pomerol). ChĂąteau Larrivaux has a unique clay soil, more suited for growing Merlot and may be the only place in MĂ©doc where that’s the case. It’s a delicious wine and I’ll be drinking it for years to come with fond memories in my heart.

So another perfect Sunday with equally perfect mishaps, on this dry day Louise stepped into a wet hole (the only one on the estate) leaving her ballerinas fit for a pig stie. Oddur, typically, forgot to charge his battery so he sent Thorir and Allegra to get a fresh one. They, equally typically, couldn’t find their way back so we would have had to wait for them until lunch got cold if, most typically of all, lunch hadn’t been so behind schedule that they arrived right on time.

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As I mentioned earlier we were both pregnant that day, BĂ©rangĂšre and I. Both due in June. That wonderful day at the chĂąteau of women, having a lunch together we both knew what we were expecting. We were both expecting boys.

As I am writing this, they are both born, there will be no more lunches without them. I hope they will be friends, Lucian and Till. We’ll have many more feasts together and maybe even weddings. Who knows?

Because BĂ©rangĂšre and Basile only have sons it seems that the line of women is destined to be broken one day. Larrivaux will be run by a man. In a way it seems oddly modern, breaking traditions by finally giving a man a chance. BĂ©rangĂšre told me she hopes that her sons will have the good fortune when they take over the chĂąteau to at least have strong wifes to guide them. I suppose some things are just too important to be left entirely to men. Maybe one of them will even be my daughter.

Time will tell.

A few days later, Lucian, I was bumping about in your father’s Land Rover on my way to the clinic. Hair and dust orbiting around me, every whack feeling strong enough to push you out. And then you came.

Lucian, this is where your story begins…

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Cheese fritters/ Beignets from my grandmother

1/4 liter/ 1 cup of water
40 g/ 3 tablespoons butter
1 pinch of salt
150 g/ 1 & Πcup flour
100 g/ 1 cup grated cheese (Emmental county or type)
4 eggs, separated
Vegetable oil, for frying

Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks and set aside.
Bring the water to a boil, add the butter and salt and stir until melted.
Add the flour in one go and stir.
Add the egg yolks one by one, stirring continuously, then fold in the egg whites, followed by the grated cheese.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 170°C/ 330°F.
Using 2 teaspoons, shape little balls (about the size of a walnut) and fry them until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Beignets au fromage de ma grand-mĂšre

1/4 de litre d’eau
40 gr de beurre
1 pincée de sel
150 gr de farine
100 gr de fromage rapé ( type comté ou emmental )
4 oeufs

Fair bouillir l’eau avec le beurre et le sel
Ajouter la farine.
Remuer.
Ajouter un Ă  un les jaunes d’oeufs puis les blancs battus en neige, puis le fromage rĂąpĂ©.

Chauffer l’huile d’une friteuse Ă  170°C
Faire Ă  l’aide de 2 petites cuillĂšres des tas de pĂąte Ă  beignet et les plonger dans la friteuse jusqu’Ă  l’obtention d’une belle coloration dorĂ©e.

Ces beignets au fromage ont vraiment bercé mon enfance à LARRIVAUX, nous en avions tous les week ends!!!

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Veal and basil meatloaf

1.2 kg/ 2 & Ÿ pound of minced veal
3 slices of stale bread
1 small can of tomato paste (concentrate)/ 140 g/ 5 ounces
1 egg
1 bunch of fresh basil
60 ml/Πcup extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 210°C/ 410°F.

In a food processor, combine the minced veal, tomato paste, bread, salt, pepper and olive oil and mix everything together.
Add the basil and the egg, pulse a few more times.

Spoon the mixture into a rectangular cake pan and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool and unmold into a serving plate.

Tip: You can serve this veal meatloaf with a tomato sauce or freshly diced tomatoes and olive oil. It’s a family favourite for picnics.

Pain de veau au basilic

1,2 kg de veau haché
3 tranches de pain de mie
1 boite de concentré de tomate de taille moyenne/ 140 g
sel/poivre
1 oeuf entier
1 bouquet de basilic
huile d’olive

MĂ©langer et mixer le veau hachĂ©, le concentrĂ© de tomate, le pain de mie, sel poivre et huile d’olive.
Ajouter le bouquet de basilic et l’oeuf entier.
Mixer Ă  nouveau.

Dans un plat à cake mettre la préparation, puis faire cuire environ 40 minutes à 210°C.

Laisser refroidir.
On peut le servir avec un coulis de tomates ou un concassĂ© de tomates fraiches et huile d’olive.

Quel bonheur de partager ce pain de veau au basilic lors de nos pique-niques!

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Pancake cake

1/2 liter/ 2 cups milk
125 g/ 2/3 cup sugar
6 eggs, separated
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of plain flour
1 sachet (7 g/ approx 1 teaspoon) of vanilla sugar
Confectionner’s sugar

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and the egg yolks until you get smooth paste.
Heat the milk in a saucepan and add the butter. Stir until melted. Set aside and leave to cool.
Pour the milk mixture into the egg and flour paste. Whisk until smooth.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold in to the batter – make sure to leave the egg white ‘lumps’ in the batter (they will make the pancakes extra fluffy).

Heat the frying pan (non-stick pancake pan) and melt Âœ teaspoon butter. Pour enough batter to cover the pan and cook on a medium heat on one side only. Transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle each pancake with a dash of vanilla sugar and a dash of confectionner’s sugar. Repeat this step and continue to stack them one on top of each other. For the last pancake, place it brown side on top.

GĂąteau de crĂȘpes

1/2 litre de lait
125 gr de sucre
6 oeufs
125 g beurre doux
4 cuillĂšre Ă  soupe de farine
1 sachet de sucre vanillé
Du sucre en poudre

MĂ©langer la farine et les jaunes d’oeuf
Faire fondre le beurre dans le lait.
Laisser tiĂ©dir le lait et l’incorporer au mĂ©lange farine oeuf.
Battre les blancs en neige et les incorporer grossiĂšrement Ă  la pĂąte.
Il doit rester des grumeaux de blancs en neige dans la pĂąte.
Enduire la poĂȘle Ă  crĂȘpe d’un mĂ©lange beurre/huile et commencer Ă  faire les crĂȘpes en les faisant cuire que d’un seul cotĂ©.
Superposer chaque crĂȘpes les unes sur les autres en les saupoudrant entre chacune de mĂ©lange sucre vanillĂ©/sucre en poudre.
Retourner la derniĂšre crĂȘpe cotĂ© cuit vers le gĂąteau.

Two Sundays without you (part I)

artichokebasket

“I shall always think of you and feel about you the way it was that Fourth of July day three years ago when you met me at the boat, and we went out on the cafe on the river and had a drink and later went on top of the tall building, and all the strangeness and the glory and the power of life and of the city was below.”

Thomas Wolfe in his final letter to Maxwell Perkins

Is it possible to have a memory of something that happened before we were even born? And is it possible to remember someone before they were born? Lucian and I had many moments together before his birth on the 8th of June. He lived in my body but even more in my mind and my imagination. In the last weeks before his birth I was consumed by one thought. This would be my last pregnancy and looking around me, at my beautiful family they would be the people he would grow up with. Our house would be his magic world, filled with puppies and flowers and delicious food. As his arrival approached these thoughts intensified, everything seemed so calm and clear.

Lucian, I will always remember you before you could be remembered. This is who we were before you were born and this is how I would like you to remember the days before you could remember.

This is your world before you could live in it.

artichokefield2

asparagustart

table

garden

preparingartichokes

May 15

The seeds for this glorious Sunday had been planted 10 day earlier when Allegra and Francesco gave Oddur his birthday present. They were more than seeds actually, a whole olive tree that sat in its black plastic pot for 10 days, relentlessly attacked by puppies who tried their best to destroy it. Fortunately olive trees are tough and the tree survived until we had time to do what we had decided, which was to have a meal together in the garden next time the weather was good and then plant the tree after lunch. It felt like the hottest day of summer (so far), and may have been for real. The dogs searched lethargically for shadows to lie in and the kids thought it best to steal all my winter hats (I guess they couldn’t find the summer ones) to protect themselves from the sun. Allegra loves making italian vegetable fritters and we love eating them so she and Francesco started out in the “potager” cutting some sage and roses for the table. Francesco stayed with us for a month this spring and helped take care of the garden. Oddur called him “giardiniere bravo” and I guess he lived up to that billing. To me he was and is just one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

girlsplaying

allifrancoroses

fritters2

mimifield

girlsladder

In March I was invited to Provence and stayed at the Couvent des Minimes where I had a wonderful almond-flaked cod served on a bed of artichoke and almond purĂ©e cooked by the fantastic chef JĂ©rĂŽme Roy. It was so delicious I ordered it two nights in a row. I had recreated it for one of my workshops to rave reviews and wanted to have it again as soon as possible and of course to share it with you. That day we had no fresh artichokes and I guess I was feeling a bit lazy so we used frozen artichokes which I rarely do. It turns out it was a good thing because now that I am finally posting this artichokes are slowly going out of season and the frozen ones work perfectly as a substitute. For dessert I couldn’t think of anything better than VĂ©ronique Courrian’s lemon tart which has already featured on this blog some years ago but is so good and so simple that it deserves to be here twice. We were having such a good time that we almost forgot the tart in the oven, burning it slightly but in all honesty, that’s how I prefer it – generously caramelized.

After lunch Francesco planted the olive tree or rather made an attempt at it. He dug a little hole is more accurate. His shovel was just to weak for our stubborn, hard and dry clay soil. The tree would be planted a few days later but at least the place had been chosen and marked.

This was right in the middle of artichoke season and the most beautiful artichoke fields I have ever seen are at our friends vegetable farm, about half an hour’s drive from our house. What better activity on a Sunday than to visit an artichoke farm? Next to the artichoke farm is a strawberry farm, also owned by friends and mid-May is peak time for strawberries in MĂ©doc. It was where I took Audrey for a visit when she was just a few days old two years ago and it felt wonderful to revisit, with a mouth filled with freshly picked strawberries, flanked by my girls in (strawberry stained) summer dresses.

Of course we got overly enthusiastic with our artichoke cutting and cut two baskets worth, a problem solved the next day with stuffed artichokes for all. This time there was no shortage of artichokes.

I would like to pretend there was something wrong with that Sunday, a little detail, an unpleasant incident but I’m afraid there wasn’t anything negative to say about the whole thing. It was all one big perfect perfection (well, apart from the frozen artichokes). Which, I admit, can be boring, especially to read about. That’s why we need the mess, and bad weather and unfortunate incidents of everyday life.

But when you are waiting for a baby boy, and you’re getting a little tired of it all and impatience creeps in. A perfect day is much-needed.

… to be continued (on Wednesday)

allegrafrancesco

roses

kiss

artichokefield

stuffedartichoke

Workshops 2016 – 2017

Just a quick message here at the end to let you know that we still have some availability for Autumn and Winter workshops. September is impossibly full and so is the second October workshop. I still might have some space in the wine tasting class at the beginning of October though, due to some people moving their dates.

We have some limited availability in both November classes and December is not yet full.

And speaking of the future I announced the 2016 dates in September last year and that seemed perfect. I have, however, been getting a large number of emails requesting dates for 2017 from people who (admirably I must say) like to plan ahead. So I’m considering announcing the dates very soon and we have a lot of new things to introduce next year.

Mimi xx

ps: The dress I am wearing is by 1 et 1 font 3. Louise and GaĂŻa’s dresses by Marie-Puce. xx

cod

sagefritters

Sage fritters

Approx 20 sage leaves

300 g/ 2 & 1/2 cups plain flour
125 ml/ 1/2 cup of ice-cold beer (to make a sticky thick batter – not too liquid not too thick, it should coat the sage leaves)
1 teaspoon of sugar
salt

Sift the flour and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk in the beer until combined and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Take the batter out of the fridge and add the salt. Mix well.

Heat the vegetable oil on a medium heat in a saucepan and test with a drop of batter. If the batter immediately floats up golden brown then it’s ready for frying. Dip the sage leaves in the batter and fry them in hot vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper and season lightly with salt. Serve immediately.

cod2

Pan-fried almond cod with almond artichoke purée
(inspired by JĂ©rĂŽme Roy’s dish at Le Couvent des Minimes in Provence)

For 4 people

150 g/ 1/3 pound x 4 cod fillets
1 kg/ 2 pounds approx. chopped large artichoke hearts
60 ml/ Πcup heavy cream
60 ml/ Πcup milk
90 g/ Ÿ cup almond flour
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces/ 230 g slivered almonds, toasted
A dash of piment d’Espelette
A dash of plain flour
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of chives, finely chopped

Cook the artichoke hearts in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain the pot and transfer the artichoke hearts to a blender (I use my magimix). Pour the cream and milk , add the almond flour and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a saucepan and re-heat just before serving.

Dredge the cod fillets in the flour and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F

Place slivered almonds on a baking tray and toast them for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil on a medium to high heat and fry the cod (by batch if necessary) for about a minute and a half on each side. Transfer to the baking tray and continue to cook in the oven for 6 minutes.

Place the pureed artichoke hearts in the center of the plate, followed by the cod on top. Scatter the slivered almonds and finely chopped chives on top. Season with a dash of fleur de sel and piment d’Espelette. Drizzle with olive oil just before serving.

tablesetting

Asparagus and Roquefort tart

8 ounces/ 230 g puff pastry
6 tablepoons of crĂšme fraĂźche
200 g/ 7 ounces approx. Roquefort cheese
Approx 10 white asparagus, peeled and halved, ends trimmed
A drizzle of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F

Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangular shape and place on the parchment paper covered baking tray. Fold the edges, about 1 cm. Spread the crĂšme fraĂźche all over the pastry, place the peeled and halved asparagus all over (see photos). Crumble the Roquefort cheese and scatter on top if the asparagus and add a drizzle of olive oil.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until puffy, sizzling and golden brown.

stuffedartichokes2

Stuffed artichokes

Serves 4

4 large artichokes
120 g/1 & œ cup fresh breadcrumbs
130 g/ 1 & œ cup grated Pecorino
2 cloves garlic, minced
80 ml/ 1 /3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
A dash of piment d’Espelette
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F

In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, ground garlic, grated Pecorino, olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the bottom of each artichoke and cut the top spiky tips with kitchen scissors. Separate the leaves to open up the artichokes. Place the artichoke in a large deep pan and pour water  Ÿ high. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes on a medium heat. Take out the artichokes and set aside. Reserve the cooking liquid.

When the artichokes have cooled down, stuff the filling mixture between all the leaves.

Place the artichokes in a large and deep baking dish. Fill the dish with 3 cm/ 1 inch of the reserved cooking liquid. Cook in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

lemontart

VĂ©ronique’s lemon tart

For this recipe, please click on this link.

artichokefarmers

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