Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Revisited

vegs2

I first heard about Bruno Borie from an English gentlemen who had invited me for a cup of coffee in Pauillac. A wine merchant who was visiting Médoc and wanted to explore the possibilities of working together on a project. It was close to noon and as we discussed his trip, people he had met, wine he had tried, he leaned over and admitted that for all the amazing things, dinners and lunches he’d had on his voyage, the one he was most excited about was the one coming up an hour later. An intimate little lunch, cooked and served in the kitchen of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou by the master of the house, Mr. Bruno Borie. He was beaming with excitement. Later when he met my husband in London he confessed that the lunch had more than lived up to its billing, the highlight of a spectacular Médoc visit.

All this piqued my interest and aroused my culinary curiosity. I was, of course, very familiar with the wines of Ducru-Beaucaillou, some of the best and most respected in the world, but I knew little about the famous grounds or the people living there. A few weeks later, passing through St Julien, I suggested a quick unannounced visit to the château. We trespassed a little bit (as we often do) drove sneakily around, admired the gardens from afar. Oddur wanted to take pictures as he always does, I (as usual) thought it better to get permission. I entered through a door at the side of the château, into something that looked like offices. I introduced myself but was told that the owner of Ducru-Beaucaillou wasn’t there that day and only he could grant such permissions. Oddur was eager to explore, from afar we could hear the barking of dogs, it was all so interesting and inviting but on that day, unfortunately, forbidden. As we were driving away I looked out the rear window, at the château disappearing behind us and I wondered, “where in that grand building would one put a kitchen, was it on the top floor, in the main building, in either of the wings?” Perhaps I would never know.

ducruview

pigeons1

ducrugarden

fume

A few months later a famous oenologist introduced me to his neighbor, a real Médocain character by the name of Yves Lajoux. We went fishing together, he showed us the best hunting spots and finally he wanted to take us to the finest château in Médoc, where he had worked all his life before he retired. You don’t have to be very smart to know what château he was talking about, it fits right into my story. Mr. Lajoux showed us the very impressive grounds (he said he didn’t really need permission) and later insisted that we meet his former boss, a real renaissance man who hunts, cooks and loves his region. Mr. Borie was extremely welcoming, and greeted us on the doorsteps of the château. We discussed cooking, bien sûr, there was some wine talk, but mainly we talked about food. I remember Mr. Borie saying that good food and good wine could not exist without each other, an argument I happen to agree with. We debated on the best way to prepare a mullet fish carpaccio (a local speciality), on our favorite ways to cook a rabbit. It was decided that we would cook together in the fall, in his red kitchen. Mr. Lajoux was given the task of getting a rabbit and we said our goodbyes. I almost asked for a tour of the kitchen but my repressed French manners got the better of me.

brunoborieandhisdogs

carrots2

feast

As it often is, even with the best intentions, some plans, great as they may be never get to be more than plans. They are never executed, they never see the light of day. Somehow autumn came and went, there was no rabbit, no red kitchen. I often wondered, passing through St Julien about this missed opportunity, this wasted chance. Would I ever get to see the inside of that château?
And then it happened. Reintroduced by a friend, Borie and I decided to make up for lost time and cook together the feast of feasts, something grand to celebrate the holiday season, to help bring in the new year. It was a case of “I was waiting for you to call me … really, I was waiting for you to call me!”

1982

boilvegs

sarments

So one glorious day in late November, the vineyards still teeming with golden leaves that have now gone, the gardens of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou at their most beautiful autumn splendor we set up shop in that famous red kitchen and started cooking up a feast. The day began with Bruno getting some vegetables from his private garden and introducing us to his dogs (my husband’s favorite part). They are English setters that he says are very loyal to him, especially a young female of exceptional hunting prowess, Finette, who will have nothing to do with anyone but her master. He showed us all the trees he’s been planting in the last few years, some very exotic varieties that he’s bought at auctions and even special little trees for attracting birds so he can teach his 6-year-old son, Louis, how to hunt. He has even planted a whole forest for his young son, what are now just little plants will have grown into thick woods when the boy turns 30 – I must say I find that very romantic. Planting trees for a person you love or for any reason is always a good idea.

carrots

ducruvineyards

lobster2

After our walk we started chopping away, sautéing, wrapping the pigeons with fat… lots of serious old-fashioned cooking going on. In making the foie gras terrine we started by smoking it on the sarment vines, outdoors, just by the golden vineyards. This technique was certainly a first for me. The chanterelles that Bruno had picked up himself on a recent trip to Brittany were ready to be sautééd in his glistening copper pans. It was, let’s say, a perfect cooking day for me!

When you spend the better part of a day cooking a glorious feast you might as well enjoy the moment and dress for the occasion. I must confess (well you can see it in the photos) that the grandeur of the château inspired me to wear my heels all day (a girl can cook all day and still feel glamorous). When it was time to sit down and enjoy it all Bruno and I felt we needed to up our game and put on our finest attire.

New Year’s eve should always be a black tie event – even in November.

chanterelle

pigeonandvegetables

foiegrassarments

It was Bruno who came up with the menu we cooked, a feast of all his favorite things, cooked his way, in his kitchen. He wanted to prepare a menu of the food he loves, fit for the occasion and for his wine. Each course paired perfectly with various wines and vintages he chose from the family’s estates. It’s meant to be a little holiday treat for his clients and my readers – I sincerely hope that our day of cooking will inspire you to cook a feast of your own with your own versions of these recipes. As I have said somewhere before, there is dinner and a show … and then there are moments when the dinner IS the show!

pigeonsandpots

ginkgo

renenew

As I was sitting there, taking the last sip of the 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou, inside the very château that’s illustrated on the bottle I thought to myself “things just don’t get much better than this”, it was one of those moments where you think that you might never get to have that feeling again. But it seems I’m in luck. Bruno has challenged me to another cooking session in the new year, this time I have to come up with all the dishes. So as they say on TV … to be continued.

mimi&bruno

Bruno Borie’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Pumpkin soup with chestnuts and fresh foie gras

Terrine of foie gras grilled on cabernet vine shoots, red wine of Médoc jelly, root vegetables with truffle oil

Cordouan blue lobster stew with red wine of Médoc

Pigeon “Woodcock” Style

Braised green cabbage

My Grandmother’s Chestnut Cake with custard

pumpkinsoup

Pumpkin soup with chestnuts and fresh foie gras

(Can be prepared the day before)

For this soup, we served it in a large pumpkin. Just carve the top hat of the pumpkin, scoop out and reserve the flesh.

Ingredients:

1 large pumpkin
1 large onion, sliced finely
1 liter/1 quart chicken stock
A few cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmed or grated
A slice of foie gras (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
A dash of piment d’Espelette
A few sprigs of chive, chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot, sauté the onions for a few minutes on a medium heat, add the pumpkin chunks and continue to cook for a few minutes. Pour the stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 5 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender and cooked through. Blend with a stick blender, adjust the seasoning, add a dash of piment d’Espelette to your taste and grate some nutmeg. Set aside.
Cut the cooked chestnuts into 4 or 6 pieces.
Cut up a generous slice of foie gras into small cubes, heat a sauté pan on a high heat. Once the pan is sizzling hot, sauté the foie gras cubes so they are golden brown on all sides – this should take less than a minute as you don’t want the cubes to overcook or melt.
Just before serving, heat the soup. Serve the soup, garnish with a few bits of chestnut and cubes of foie gras; add snippets of chives as a final decorative touch.

foiegras

Terrine of foie gras grilled on cabernet vine shoots, red wine of Médoc jelly, root vegetables with truffle oil
(To be prepared 36 to 48 hours in advance)

Ingredients:

1 foie gras liver, approximately 500 to 600 g/ 1 to 1 1 1/4 pounds
1 leek
2 carrots
1 onion
6 cloves
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
1 bouquet garni
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the red wine jelly

500ml/ 2 cups red wine from Médoc
2 sheets of gelatin

Place the foie gras in icy water, open and devein carefully.
Light the cabernet vine cuttings and wait for the embers to be slightly covered with ash. Place the foie gras on the grill above the embers to both sear and smoke it at the same time. Once it’s golden-brown on all sides, take it back to the kitchen, season with salt and pepper and vacuum-wrap. Place the vacuum-wrapped foie gras in a baking dish and fill halfway with room temperature water and cook in a preheated oven for 1 hour at 60°C (14o°F) au’bain-marie’ (water-bath).
Leave to cool completely.
Pour the red wine in a saucepan. Add the sliced leeks, carrots, onions pierced with cloves, garlic, shallots and a bouquet-garni. Cook on a medium heat and leave to simmer.
Flambé the wine for a few minutes. Pour the wine through a sieve, salt and pepper to taste and add the necessary amounts of gelatin sheets (add+25% more because of the wine). Leave to cool.
Open the vacuum-wrapped foie gras, place in a terrine dish, pour the cooled red wine jelly mixture on top until completely covered. Cover the top with a plastic wrap, cover with a lid and leave to set in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before serving.

For the side dish:

A mixture of root vegetable, all peeled and chopped into small 1/2 inch cubes
1 small truffle
Olive oil
A few sprigs of chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and chop up root vegetables, such as carrots, salsify, raves, celery, parsnips … blanch them for a few minutes in salted water, then set aside and keep cool. An hour or two before serving, season  with olive oil, a truffle chopped into tiny cubes, salt, pepper and chives.

lobster

Cordouan blue lobster stew with red wine of Médoc

(the broth can be prepared the day before)

Ingredients:

For this recipe, prepare a red wine fish stock in advance.

2 lobsters, approx 500-600g/ 1 to 1&1/4 pound each
1 bottle of Médoc red wine
Olive oil
A dash of piment d’Espelette
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare a fish stock with red wine (preferably of Médoc). Using fish bones, heads and skin, add a bay leaf, a stalk of celery, a few branches of parsley, 1 carrot, 1 onion, salt & pepper. Instead of using water, use red wine. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes and drain through a sieve.

Chop up the lobster into thick slices. Sear the slices quickly in a drizzle of olive oil, salt and spice with piment d’Espelette for a few minutes.
Place the lobster in a casserole dish, cover with the red wine fish stock and place in the oven at 60°C (140°F) for 1 hour.

pigeon

Pigeon “Woodcock” Style
(To be prepared the day of serving)

For 4-6 pigeons (depending on size).

4-6 pigeons (keep the livers, hearts and gizzards)
4-6 fatback slices to wrap the pigeons
6 generous slices of country bread
80 g/ approx. 3 ounces de Bayonne ham
1 shallot
Unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Cognac
3 tablespoons Madera wine
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon juniper grains
5 tablespoons of red wine game stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepepr

For the sauce

1 shallot
80 g/ approx. 3 ounces Bayonne ham
1 slice of foie gras
Red wine game stock
1 teaspoon juniper grains
1 teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons Madera wine
1 tablespoon Cognac
1 bouquet garni
A dash of piment d’Espelette
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the pigeons: Remove all the feathers. Gut them and put aside the livers, hearts and gizzards. Salt and pepper, wrap the pigeons in a strip of lard, and then truss them.

In a large dutch oven, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a high heat and cook the pigeons on all sides until golden brown. Turn down the heat to medium low and leave them to cook, turning them occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through (to your desired cuisson).

Giblet paste for the toasts

Carefully clean the giblets (remove the internal skin from the gizzards), finely chop them along with a few cubes of Bayonne ham. Salt and pepper. Sauté a shallot in butter, add the mince, cook it all together then add one generous shot of Armagnac or Cognac and three of Madeira. Add a rounded teaspoon of whole-grain mustard, a few grains of juniper and a ladle of the red-wine game stock. Let simmer gently on the stove. Spread thick slices of good country bread with butter and grill them on a pan. When ready to serve spread a generous layer on the grilled bread.

For the sauce

Sauté the shallot with the diced Bayonne ham and a generous slice of foie gras cut into cubes. Pour a large cup of red-wine game stock, add a few grains of juniper, one teaspoon of whole-grain mustard, 3 shots of Madeira and
1 of Armagnac or Cognac, a bouquet-garni, a few grains of juniper and a pinch of Piment d’Espelette. Leave to a simmer for 1 hour, and blend (with a stick blender) after removing the bouquet-garni. Adjust the salt and pepper and drizzle the pigeons previously placed on the toasts.

Braised green cabbage
(you can prepare this side dish the day before)

Ingredients:

1 Savoy cabbage
1 onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 slice unsmoked pancetta, sliced into chunky match sticks
1 glass white wine
A few grains of juniper, coriander and cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the cabbage leaves in simmering water.
Remove the spines and cut up the leaves coarsely. In a pot sauté an onion, a shallot, carrots and a dice up a generous slice of unsmoked pancetta.
Add the cabbage and a glass of white wine. Put in a few grains of juniper, coriander and cumin. Add an onion pierced with 3 cloves and grate a bit of nutmeg.
Stir everything, cover and leave to cook gently on the stove for 20 to 30 minutes.

canele

My Grandmother’s Chestnut Cake with custard
(Prepare 48 hours ahead)

1 kilo/ approx 2 pounds of unsweetened chestnuts peeled, blanched and pureed
250 g/ 2 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
100 g/ 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
150 g/ 2/3 cup of butter
350 g 12 ounces Venezuelan dark chocolate
A shot of rum or Cognac, optional

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler over simmering water, add the butter and both sugar. Mix together with the chestnuts (previously pureed) to a medium texture.
Add a shot of Martinique dark rum or good Cognac – this step is optional.
Place the mixture in cake tins (for this recipe, we used canelés ramekins in silicone, as it is easier for unmoulding). Leave them in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before serving. Take the cakes out of the ramekins and serve with a crème anglaise (you can find the crème Anglaise recipe here).

Recettes en Français:

Dîner du Nouvel An de Bruno Borie

Soupe de citrouille aux châtaignes et foie gras frais

Terrine de foie gras grillé aux sarments de cabernet, gelée au vin de médoc, racines anciennes à l’huile truffée

Civet de Homard bleu de Cordouan au vin rouge de Médoc

Pigeon façon bécasse

Choux vert braisé

Gâteau aux châtaignes de ma Grand-Mère

Crème anglaise

Soupe de citrouille aux châtaignes et foie gras frais
(Peut-être préparé la veille)

Ingrédients:

1 oignon
1 citrouille (pour environ 1 kg de chair)
1 litre bouillon de volaille
Piment d’Espelette
Noix de muscade, rapée
Quelques chataîgnes, coupées en 4 ou 6 morceaux
Une belle tranche de foie gras, coupée en cubes
Quelques brins de ciboulette
Huile d’olive
Sel et poivre

Emincez un oignon, le faire fondre dans un peu d’huile d’olive, rajoutez la citrouille coupée en gros cubes, faire suer le tout, couvrir avec de l’eau et du brouillon de volaille, saler.
Quand la citrouille est cuite, mixez le tout, ajustez le sel, rajoutez du piment d’Espelette en poudre jusqu’à votre goût, râpez un peu de noix de muscade.
Epluchez quelques châtaignes, les blanchir, les couper en 4 ou 6 morceaux.
Détaillez une belle tranche de foie gras frais en petits cubes, les poêler très rapidement pour garder leur moelleux.
Au moment de servir donnez un bouillon à la soupe et garnissez chaque assiette. Posez dans chacune quelques morceaux de châtaignes et dés de foie gras ; décorez avec une tombée de ciboulette ciselée.

Terrine de foie gras grillé aux sarments de cabernet, gelée au vin de médoc, racines anciennes à l’huile truffée
(A préparer 36 à 48 heures à l’avance)

Ingrédients:

Un foie gras entier, environ 500 à 600 g
Vin rouge du Médoc
1 ou 2 poireaux
1 carotte
1 oignon piqué de clou de girofle
1 gousse d’ aïl
2 échalotes
1 bouquet garni
Sel et poivre

Pour la garniture:

1 truffe noire
2 carottes
1 salsifi
2 raves
1 branche de céleri
1 panais
Quelques brins de ciboulette
Huile d’olive
Sel et poivre

Placez le foie gras dans de l’eau glacée, l’ouvrir et ôtez les veines avec précaution.
Allumez les sarments de vigne. Attendre que les braises soient légèrement couvertes de cendres. Placez le foie gras sur le grill au-dessus de votre braise. Le faire à la fois saisir et fumer. Dès que vous l’aurez doré sur toutes les faces, ramenez-le en cuisine, salez et poivrez, roulez-le dans du film alimentaire et le mettre sous vide avant de le cuire au bain marie, 1 heure à 60°.
Le refroidir.
Faites infuser dans du vin rouge du Médoc une garniture aromatique composée de poireaux, de carottes, d’oignons piqués de clou de girofle, d’ail, d’échalotes et un bouquet garni.
Faites chauffer le tout et maintenez une température frémissante.
Faites bruler le vin en plaçant une flamme au-dessus de la casserole frémissante jusqu’à ce que l’alcool soit évaporé. Passez le vin, ajustez sel et poivre et rajoutez la quantité de feuilles gélatines nécessaire (+25% à cause du vin). Laissez refroidir.
Placer le foie gras dans la terrine et le recouvrir de la gelée au vin rouge.
Epluchez et détaillez des racines anciennes tel: carottes, salsifis, raves, céleri, panais, etc…les blanchir à l’eau salée, réservez-les au frais. Une ou deux heures avant le service, assaisonnez-les avec de l’huile d’olive, une truffe détaillée en petits dés, sel, poivre et ciboulette.

Civet de Homard bleu de Cordouan au vin rouge de Médoc
(Le fumet peut être fait la veille)

Ingrédients:

2 Homards bleus
1 bouteille de vin rouge du Médoc
Huile d’olive
Piment d’Espelette
Sel et poivre

Préparez un fond de poisson avec du vin rouge du Médoc. (Parures de poisson, carottes, oignons, poireaux, bouquet garni)

Détaillez le homard en petits tronçons. Faites saisir rapidement les morceaux dans un filet de l’huile d’olive, salez et épicez avec du piment d’Espelette.
Placez le homard dans une cocotte, recouvrez-le avec le fond de vin rouge et laissez le tout au four à 60°C pendant 1 heure.

Pigeon façon bécasse
(À préparer le jour même)

4-6 pigeons – selon la taille (gardez les foies, les coeurs et les gésiers)
De la barde de lard (pour chaque pigeon)
Sel et poivre
6 belles tranches de pain de campagne
80 g de jambon de Bayonne
1 échalote
Beurre doux
1 cuillère à soupe de Cognac
3 cuillères à soupe de vin de Madère
1 cuillère à café de moutarde
Quelques grains de baie de genièvre
Une louche de fond de gibier au vin rouge

Pour la sauce

1 échalote
80 g de jambon de Bayonne
1 tranche de foie gras
Fond de gibier au vin rouge
Quelques grains de genièvre
1 cuillère à café de moutarde à l’ancienne
3 cuillères à soupe de vin de Madère
1 cuillère à soupe de Cognac
1 bouquet garni
Quelques grains de baies de genièvre
Une pincée de piment d’Espelette
Sel et poivre

Bien parer les pigeons : ôter toutes les plumes avec attention, vider en gardant les foies, les cœurs et les gésiers. Salez et poivrez, entourez les pigeons d’une barde de lard, puis troussez-les.
Faites les dorer de toutes les faces avant de les placer dans une cocotte pour finir les cuire à température modérée.

Farce pour le toast

Bien nettoyer les abats (ôtez la peau interne des gésiers), hachez les finement avec quelques dés de jambon de Bayonne. Salez et poivrez. Faites fondre une échalote au beurre, rajoutez le hachis, faites cuire l’ensemble puis rajoutez une bonne tombée de cognac et 3 de vin de Madère. Rajoutez une belle cuillère à café de moutarde à l’ancienne, quelques grains de genièvre et une louche de fond de gibier. Laissez mijoter doucement sur le coin de la cuisinière. Passez de belles tartines de pain de campagne au beurre pour les faire rôtir, et au moment de servir étalez généreusement la farce sur chacune.

Sauce

Faites fondre une échalote avec quelques dés de jambon et une belle tranche de foie gras détaillée en dés. Mouillez avec du fond de gibier au vin rouge, rajoutez quelques grains de genièvre, une cuillère à café de moutarde à l’ancienne, 3 tombées de Madère et une de cognac, bouquet garni, quelques grains de genièvre et une pincée de piment d’Espelette. Laissez frémir pendant 1 heure et mixez après avoir ôté le bouquet garni. Ajustez le sel et le poivre et nappez les pigeons préalablement dressés sur les toasts.

Choux vert braisé
(Peut être préparé la veille)

Ingrédients:

1 chou vert
1 oignon
1 échalote
2 carottes
Une belle tranche de ventrèche sèche
1 verre de vin blanc
Quelques grains de genièvre, coriandre et cumin
1 oignon, piqué de 3 clous de girofle
Noix de muscade, rapée
Sel et poivre

Blanchir les feuilles de choux dans de l’eau frémissante.
Ôtez les côtes des feuilles et détaillez-les grossièrement. Faites fondre dans une cocotte un oignon, une échalote, des carottes et une belle tranche de ventrêche sèche détaillée en lardons.
Rajoutez les choux et un bon verre de vin blanc. Jetez quelques grains de genièvre, de coriandre et de cumin. Placez un oignon garni de 3 clous de girofle et râpez un peu de muscade.
Remuez le tout et laisser braiser doucement sur le côté de la cuisinière.

Gâteau aux châtaignes de ma Grand-Mère
(À préparer 48 heures à l’avance)

1 kilo de marrons épluchés et blanchis (sans sucre)
250 g de sucre glace
100 g de sucre cristal
150 g de beurre
350 g de chocolat noir du Venezuela

Faites fondre le chocolat au bain marie avec un peu d’eau, ajoutez le beurre et les sucres. Incorporez le tout aux châtaignes préalablement passés à la moulinette (grille de taille moyenne).
Ajoutez une tombée de vieux rhum de la Martinique, d’Armagnac ou de bon Cognac (optionnel).
Placez la pâte dans des moules.
Laissez au réfrigérateur pour 48 heures avant de servir.
Démoulez les gâteaux et servez-les avec une crème anglaise.

grounds

SOON THE DOORS WILL OPEN

opendoor

It is with great pleasure and anticipation that I finally announce that I am taking bookings for my cooking workshops here in Médoc. Getting here has been a real journey, a journey many of you have accompanied me on. From starting the blog to making a cookbook – it’s been an enjoyable ride and it seems this adventure is only just beginning. After much deliberation on formats and structure, on thinking what would be the most fun, useful, educational way of doing this I’ve come up with the following. I hope my ideas are compatible with your needs, if not we can always find a solution.

I will be hosting 3 workshops every month, starting March 2015. Let me tell you about the details: All the workshops will be identical, different only in number of days. Every month will have a 2-day, 3-day and a big extravaganza 4-day workshop (9 days in total out of every month – as long as there is demand of course). I am sensitive to the fact that some of you might be traveling from far away lands so taking bookings until December 2015 should give you ample time to plan ahead. Exact dates will be at the bottom of this post. To keep things on a personal and enjoyable level I think limiting the number of each class to 6 participants is a good idea.
There will be no workshops in July, August or September due to a seasonal restaurant we are opening next summer. That, however, offers other opportunities (I’ll get to that later). In December 2015 we’ll only have one 3-day Christmas special class, I guess all of us are a bit busy during the holidays.

For the first year, regrettably, I will not be able to offer accommodation. We are putting all our efforts into the culinary side and are mindful of the old saying that it’s better to do one thing really well than … There is a slight possibility we might be able to offer some rooms at the back-end of the year but that would just be a bonus.

Every morning we’ll gather at my new house in St. Yzans de Médoc, have breakfast together, chat and start cooking. In the morning we’ll prepare a three-course lunch, set a table and have it together (with a little wine of course). Then we’ll start cooking dinner and again have it together in the evening (with more wine). We’ll have more than one kitchen and more than one dining room so hopefully it will always feel fresh and new. For the 2-day workshop we’ll pretty much repeat the first day (+ a little outing) but for the 3 and 4-day ateliers there will be some variety and sweet distractions depending on the season. We’ll go to the market, we’ll visit wine making châteaux and have wine tastings, we might go bicycling in the vineyards and have a picnic or even go fishing. We might strike up a barbecue at a friend’s place, have some Lillet, play some pétanque. But the structure will remain the same, It’s all about preparing lunch and dinner and sharing it together. Let’s call it structured variety.
Additionally my husband will be giving an afternoon class on the best ways to photograph food (in case you are interested – for those who are not we will just use the time to cook some more) and maybe you can even pick up a bit of French, unless you are French in which case you might pick up some English, or Chinese or even Icelandic. Ultimately, though, these workshops are all about becoming a better cook, more knowledgeable about French food and French wine, and having fun along the way.

Prices:

(I am half French and not particularly comfortable talking about money, but I suppose I have to put it somewhere):

• 2-day workshop is €1.000.
• 3-day workshop is €1.500.
• 4-day workshop is €2.000.

Included are three 3-course meals and great wine every day, transportation for all activities and a ride to and from the airport or train station. All activities during the day will be arranged and paid for by me. I will recommend accommodation near our house and negotiate the best possible prices depending on your needs (they are mostly friends anyway – prices vary between €60-€180 per night). You will be picked up in the morning at your place of choice (within reason of course) and driven home in the evening. For those of you who want a bit more freedom you can always rent a car.

I mentioned earlier that we’ll be opening a seasonal restaurant in the summer and for that we’ll be needing some help. For those of you who are interested in coming here, working in some capacity, depending on your interests and qualifications and the needs of the restaurant please feel free to contact me and we can discuss and plan further. This seasonal restaurant will be a great adventure and we have set ourselves very ambitious goals in terms of quality. As I said everything can be discussed but normally we’ll be needing help for at least a few weeks and those who participate can expect room and board + some remuneration depending on their contribution.

For those of you who are interested in the workshops (or the restaurant) please contact me at mangerworkshop@gmail.com I will do my best to answer all inquires swiftly and seriously.

Here are the dates:

March:
12–13 (2-day class)
18-21 (4-day class)
26-28 (3-day class)

April:
11-12 (2-day class)
15-18 (4-day class)
23-25 (3-day class)

May:
7-8 (2-day class)
14-16 (3-day class)
27-30 (4-day class)

June:
12-13 (2-day class)
17–20 (4-day class)
25-27 (3-day class)

October:
1-2 (2-day class)
7-10 (4-day class)
22-24 (3-day class)

November:
6-7 (2-day class)
12-14 (3-day class)
25-28 (4-day class)

December:
9-11 (3-day class)

In addition to the dates above there is always the possibility, if you are a group of six, to add a workshop outside this published schedule, something we can custom-make together and fit into the calendar where it suits us all.
So many of you have already expressed interest in some shape or form, I hope this description (and prices) live up to your expectations – looking forward to hearing from you.

our-roses

Upstate, Downstate

barnview1

So there we were, fresh off the plane, enjoying a spectacular meal at 2am French time (8pm local time), tired but happy. It turned out that the very first meal of our 10-day New York trip was also one of the very best, shall we say easily in the top three ! We had been gently dragooned from our comfortable hotel room by our great New York friends, Matt and Yolanda, they had told us we were in for a true, as good as it gets, New York experience. They were right. Sitting with (some of) our children in one of the booths at Russ and Daughters, sipping Bloody Marys and Lower Eastsides and in case of the children, cream sodas (I don’t really know what a cream soda is but is tastes good and sounds fabulous). We had chopped chicken livers and pickled red onion, matzo ball soup, whitefish croquettes. We had potato latkes and kippered salmon, we had more cocktails, we had desserts. And by desserts I mean things like Challah bread pudding and Halvah ice cream. Gosh what I would do tonight to be at Russ and Daughters having that food all over again (I actually said that just now to my husband who is sitting opposite me in the kitchen editing photos, having a glass of wine and noshing on a piece of Parmesan cheese).

cranberries

pizzaslice

broccoli

Next day, a Sunday, we revisited, for old time’s sake, one of my favorite places in NY, the Spotted Pig. The haddock chowder and Cuban sandwich did not disappoint. That meal was Hudson’s favorite of the whole trip, a burger and a mountain of fries downed with ginger ale. He was perhaps buoyed by the fact that the Spotted Pig is just off Hudson street and there literally everything is named “after him”, Hudson flowers, Hudson bakery, Hudson wine, for an already over-confident young man having your own street can be a dangerous thing. Matt and Yolanda kidnapped us again that night for drinks at the legendary Bemelman’s bar at the Carlyle followed by a trip to Wolfgang’s steakhouse where we started with shrimp cocktails and enormous pieces of bacon before proceeding to the very big, very delicious, dry-aged steaks. All very “Mad Men”, the mood was American and so was the wine.

apples

hunting

pumpkins2

I know I am taking a risk of being a bore here, recounting all the food I had on my trip, but I have to admit I am enjoying revisiting all these glorious meals. On Monday I finally got to try out the lamb burger at the Breslin, oh yes and their version of Scotch eggs. That evening was our big party, A Condé Nast Traveler celebration of “A Taste of the Médoc” due to their recent coverage of our beloved region. The talk of the evening was, I think, the wine. Who does not love to have a few glasses of 2004 Chateau-Lynch Bages on a cold Monday night in November? One of my absolute favorite wines. They also served a few tasty little dishes from my new cookbook, A kitchen in France, it was fun to see little recipes that originated in my kitchen in France being prepared by someone else in the big city. Worked very well I might add. I had a great time, the evening was judged a success by the NY post so it must have been good, non ?

bluestone

littlepond

applegalette

The next few days and nights saw us having many meetings, great food galore, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino’s, Franny’s in Brooklyn. I breastfed at Balthazar (also for old times sake), had a donut for the sake of it and scoffed down a pastrami sandwich between meetings. We had two enjoyable and very successful book signings where I had cherished encounters with some of my readers, we went to a wonderful Maille event at the New York Historical Society where two talented chefs from Brooklyn prepared a tasting menu of 10 dishes. The big surprise of the evening was that we were seated next to all our fabulous instagram friends. On Friday morning I even got to have breakfast with the incredibly amazing Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen, she is as sweet as you could possibly imagine. Let’s just say we had fun.
On Friday night we went to our favorite “restaurant” in New York City, Chez Rica’s. Unfortunately for you it’s a secret address and open very rarely, mainly for friends and family. It’s got great view and only one table, a chef’s table. I’ve had the pleasure to dine their twice, a divine experience. I am of course talking about the home of my editor, Rica Allannic (or RicaSuave as she is known to some). Her husband, Cyrille, is an amazing chef (he’s French) and Rica is herself a pastry chef in her own right – a winning combination. Last time we dined there I shared with you their recipe for scallops (a staple recipe in my house these days) this time it’s a broccoli soup with a twist. I think all of us are open to ways of cooking broccoli, one of the healthiest foods you can find, this soup will become a regular at my table, it’s a feel good soup in every way. On the menu that night after the soup was lamb with baby carrots, lovely American cheeses (my favorite is called Greensward) and Rica’s delectable chocolate soufflé.

hudson&clara

mimicat

pumpkins

Here is where I stop all this food recounting and pause to tell you something important about myself. I loved Twin Peaks – the TV show. I have always had this fantasy of sitting at a diner in a small town, having a cup of Joe and cherry pie. This time that fantasy almost came true, almost. Matt and Yolanda picked us up on Saturday morning and drove us to their beautiful house upstate New York. More than a house it’s actually a whole property – called WM Brown Farm. I’m pretty bad at geography, apparently it is in the Catskills – let’s just call it upstate. On the way up we stopped by a very charming farmer’s market, had a quick vegetable soup and bought provisions. Further up we passed by a food truck at the side of the road and snapped up their very last smoked chicken and spare ribs. This was just a snack, what followed, courtesy of Matt’s cooking were Martini’s, bottles of white wine called Kistler, an appetizing pizza with guanciale, grilled scallops and swordfish fresh from Montauk. Rounded off with a very delicious, very seasonal apple galette. I am sharing a couple of those recipes too.

yolandaflowers

pumpkins3

group

Ummm… Looks like an 80’s album cover?

Many good stories have great food descriptions, moments when the characters sit down, have food, think about food. In writing this little story about my American trip I seem to have gotten carried away and skipped the story. But at least I didn’t forget the food – that’s what Manger is all about.

In the last post I announced that we would be starting the cooking ateliers in March. The response has been overwhelming, so many of you have reached out, shown interest, sent me emails. Regrettably I haven’t been able to answer you, partly because some things are still undecided. But here is a promise. Next week I’ll put up a special post with all the details and dates, descriptions of the workshops and, of course, prices. From then on I’ll be taking bookings – like they say in America – I’M EXCITED !!!

Finally I’d be a very bad salesperson if I did not take this opportunity to remind you of my cookbook, A Kitchen in France (the perfect Christmas present) available for sale on AmazonB&NIndiebound and in bookstores….

On a related note those of you who preordered the book before it was published and stand to receive one of three complimentary prints, don’t worry if you haven’t received them. The prints didn’t turn out how they were supposed to and rather than send out something that didn’t measure up to their high standards the good people at Random House are having them reprinted and are doing everything they can do get them to you before Christmas! We are sorry for this delay, but quality comes first.

broccolisoup

Broccoli soup

serves 4-6

2 broccoli (stems & florets) – save a few stems for the shavings
Olive oil, to drizzle
500 ml/ 2 cups chicken stock
A few slices of country bread
Salted butter – for the bread
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the broccoli (stems & florets) in a large pot of boiling salted hot water until tender but still quite green. After draining, cool with ice water. Purée the broccoli with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Blend (with a stick blender) the broccoli with the chicken stock and heat the soup just before serving. Season with salt & pepper.
Slice the little bits off broccoli florets. Toast a few slices of bread, slather the salted butter on each slice and sprinkle the broccoli shavings on top.

cats&pizza

Onion and Guanciale Pizza

(serves 4-6)

2 large onions, sliced finely
8-10 thinly sliced guanciale
Olive oil, to drizzle
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dough
2 cups/ 240 g 00 flour
2 cups/ 240 g plain flour
1 &1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 & 1/4 cup/300 ml lukewarm water
7 g/ 1 sachet dried yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt. In another bowl, mix the water, olive oil and dried yeast. Leave to rest for 3 minutes, then pour into flour mixture. Knead for 3 minutes, and set aside for 20 minutes. Knead again and shape into a flat ball. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for at least 3 to 4 hours. Place dough on a heavily floured surface and use your hands & fingers to stretch to desired shape (I shaped rectangular for this recipe).
Slice the onions finely. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the base, then scatter the onions all over. Place the guanciale slices on top, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a preheated oven 200°C/400°F until the dough turn golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

applegalette2

Apple Galette

For the crust
240 g/ 2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
125 g/ /1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
3 tbsp ice water
1 egg (for the eggwash)

For the filling
450 g/1 pound apples, sliced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 lemon, juice squeezed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 g/1/2 cup granulated sugar
50/ 1/4 cup muscovado sugar

Pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Continue to pulse while pouring the water gradually until the dough holds together. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Shape into a ball and wrap in cling film. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F

Prepare the filling. In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon.
Spread the mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 3 inch (approx) border. Fold the edges. and brush dough with egg wash. Drizzle a tablespoon of maple syrup in the center.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.

A Kitchen in France

mimiautumn

Anatomy of a house

St Yzans is a quiet little village perched on a small hill in the middle of vineyards. Is has a big church, a small school, a Citroën garage and one little shop that is also a café. In the morning a white car delivers baguette to those who want it, maybe not the best baguette in France but a charming feature nonetheless. The village is so small that if you walk any street, in any direction for a few minutes you’ll find yourself amongst the vines. One of those streets is my street, rue de Loudenne. House number one on that street is an L-shaped old stone house with countless rooms and vast corridors. It’s been empty for years, safe for a few rooms that were inhabited by the previous owner’s mother. Everything else remains untouched, no weird renovations and less favorably, not much restoration.
My first love in this house is the old staircase, so grand, so beautiful that I would have settled for only that. I remember walking through the front door for the first time in late January this year, then standing still for a few moments, imagining my children running up and down the stairs, followed by dogs, of course. I imagined myself walking down the stairs on a festive evening wearing a long, elegant, flowing dress, followed by dogs, of course. Next to the staircase is the kitchen and I imagined persons of the past streaming in and out of the door, holding silver trays with delicious food, carrying them up the stairs and into the other wing where guests would dine under crystal chandeliers. Maybe they are still carrying trays up and down, who knows, in any case the house has been idle for so long I am sure the ghosts are happy to have some company.

entrecote2

entrecote3

steak

Next to the kitchen on the first floor is a room, then another, and then a bigger room, the harvest room, which will be the principal room for my cooking workshops and restaurant. That room has an old staircase and under it, another kitchen, smaller, more rustic – even prettier than the first. In a few weeks or months all these rooms will be filled with food. They will be filled with bistrot chairs and simple tables, with mountains of fresh vegetables and fruits, with birds and hams and sausages hanging from the ceilings. Chests and cupboards will be overflowing with silverware and white cotton napkins and tablecloths. In one corner of one of the rooms will be the prettiest pine-wood cupboard that reaches from floor to ceiling – that’s where we’ll keep the tableware.
Outside the harvest room we have just planted a nicely sized olive tree with thousands of shiny black olives and next to it a few smaller ones. It makes me happy to think that next summer guests can dine in the shade of that tree and on rainy days we’ll leave the dining room doors open so everyone can enjoy the comforting sight of summer rain showering the garden.
Right now the only room that’s ready, and it isn’t REALLY ready, is the kitchen. Though we haven’t moved in yet we have already had several meals in there, to try it out, and mainly just because I adore being there. Everytime I leave I feel sad, if it wasn’t for my big family I think I might just sleep there on those red and cream kitchen floor tiles.

spices

field

pantry

When we first made an offer for the house we found out that it was once owned by a formidable lady called Plantia Plantieu. She always wore black dresses and she loved to cook. This much I knew, but the last few months have seen me piecing together little bits of information, old photographs, documents and declarations. But what did she like to cook? Everytime I run into someone elderly in the village, someone who might have known her I am all over them like a hawk. Luckily they are all happy to share. So far I’ve found out that she loved to make coq au vin. I discovered that blanquette de veau was her absolute signature dish, a recipe she reserved for special occasions. Last week I ran into an older man in the village who remembers her from the time he was a little boy. He used to bring her fava beans from his parent’s garden and he told me she used to scold him if they were too small. She like them big for her favorite soup which just happens to be my favorite soup too. Everyone remembers something about her cooking.
I believe in coincidences but I also believe in fate. So far everything Plantia liked I like too. In fact I like it so much that it’s all in my cookbook “A Kitchen in France”. And from now on I’ll be cooking them in her old kitchen in France.
As I said there are coincidences … and then there is fate.

Hudson2CV

walnut

miakitchen

Recipe testing – afterwards

The kids are just as excited as I am about my cookbook, but for different reasons perhaps. Louise has been counting the photos of herself and while she’s not unhappy about her grand total she’s a bit bothered by the fact that the biggest photo is of her brother and main rival, Hudson. He in turn is more of a worrier and asked me lately if I was sure that all the recipes worked. “Of course they do”, I answered “You have my food every day – don’t you like it?” “Yes I know YOU can do them but maybe they printed something wrong and everybody will be angry” he said. So he decided to try one and insisted that he would choose it himself. He’s been very interested in wine since we decided to make our own and though he was initially leaning towards the chocolate meringues he decided to go for the Médocain Pears drenched in wine. I promised to help, but not too much. My new fireplace, complete with a 650-kg iron sculpture is just screaming to be used so this week I kept my promise to the restoration guys and cooked them an entrecôte (rib-eye steak) feast with shallots and bone marrow – also from the book. Call me crazy, delusional even but everything seems so easy in that kitchen, everything just falls into place. It’s as if all the cooking that happened there once upon a time is simply waiting to happen all over again.

pearskitchen

onions

Gaia2CV

And for those of you who are wondering what we were doing driving around vineyards in a flag colored 2CV – here’s the explanation: It belongs to a friend who lent it to us for some filming we were doing last week and Oddur just can’t bear to give it up (even if he has problems starting it). Driving around in the French countryside in an old Citroën, with just a few baguettes and a piece of Camembert is not the worst way to spend a chilly November afternoon.

On a practical note so many of you have been in touch and shown interest in my upcoming cooking workshops. We are still working out the finer details, prices, duration etc but I am thrilled to announce that we will start on the 17th of March 2015. We decided not to wait until the guest rooms are ready and have found some great places to stay for those of you attending the first classes.
So for those of you who are really interested and who are able to come in March please don’t hesitate to contact me – that first class will be a special one.

Next week, we will be in New York! I will be hosting two book signing events, one at Kisan (125 Greene Street/Soho) on Wednesday, November 19 from 6:00-7:30pm & another one on Thursday, November 20th at Strand Bookstore @ Club Monaco (160 5th Avenue/Flatiron district) from 12:00-1:30pm. I am expecting you… see you there! Beyond excited. Mimi x

A KITCHEN IN FRANCE, A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse
Published by Clarkson Potter / Random House available for sale on
AmazonB&NIndiebound and in bookstores.

mimikitchen

Mimi2CV

kids

entrecote1

Recipes from my book “A Kitchen in France”.

Grilled entrecôte à la Bordelaise

A big juicy entrecôte, or rib-eye steak, seasoned with just salt and pepper and cooked over high heat until crusty and juicy, has always had a special place in my heart. Frankly I didn’t think it could be improved on—that is until I moved to Médoc. As you will be well aware of at this point, the people of Bordeaux love adding shallots to everything. Here they work wonders and really complement the flavors of the meat. Add a bit of bone marrow ,and you are in meat heaven. It’s fine to cook this entrecôte on a regular grill but if you want the full Bordelaise effect, I recommend adding dried grapevines to the fire so that a hint of Cabernet or Merlot finds its way into your steak. Having this dish without a glass of red wine is a crime!

Serves 2

4 beef marrow bones
One 1-pound/ 400- to 500-g rib-eye steak
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 shallots, finely chopped

Prepare the oven to 400°F/ 200°C

To remove the marrow from the bones, put the bones in a baking dish and bake until the marrow is soft enough to scrape out of the bones, 10 to 15 minutes.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill. You can add dried grapevines, if desired (to increase the smoky flavor).
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Grill the meat until browned and cooked to medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Heat the blade of a knife over the grill and spread the bone marrow over the meat. Sprinkle the shallots all over. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

pears1

Pears à la Médocaine

I love having pears on my kitchen table; they age gracefully, the full colors come out, and they never taste better than just before they go bad. I usually try to catch them just at that moment and put them in a cake or tart or simply have them with some nuts, cheese and a glass of wine. It won’t surprise you that here in Bordeaux they like to drench pears in wine, which makes them very tasty and breathtakingly beautiful. If I were a painter, this is the dish I would paint first. Then I would eat it. (Actually, because I’m such an impatient gourmet, I would probably eat the pears first and then paint them from memory.)

Serves 6 to 8

3 cups/ 750 ml dry red wine
1 3/4 cups/ 350 g graduated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out, seeds and beans reserved
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 star anise
6 to 8 large pears, peeled but stem left on

In a saucepan large enough to hold the pears standing upright, combine the wine, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, cinnamon, bay leaves, and star anise, mix well, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Add the pears, stems up, cover, and simmer, turning the pears occasionally so they cook evenly, until they are tender, 30 minutes.
Let the pears cool, then refrigerate for 24 hours in the syrup. To serve, divide the pears among shallow bowls and spoon some of their syrup over them.

cover

Reflections on a cookbook

fiveouttakes

As I am writing this, three days have passed since my cookbook, A Kitchen in France, was officially published. Three days since I was in Paris giving a talk at the American library, three days since people all over the world could go into their local bookstore and whether they noticed it or not my book would be there, somewhere in the room, waiting to be picked up, explored, judged, bought or even criticized. It’s also been three days since my husband and daughter walked into a bookstore on rue de Rivoli in Paris, finding the book in stacks on a table in the middle of the room. I wasn’t there but I am told that Louise, our 6-year-old, looked at the stack for about 30 seconds and then asked “why doesn’t anyone want to buy mommy’s book”, then she headed to the cashier and simply asked “Do you know Mimi Thorisson?” The lady answered “The woman who cooks?”. Louise beamed with pride “I am her daughter”. Later that night, when so many people were getting a copy at the American library, waiting in line to have their book signed, she seemed relieved – people seemed to like it after all. We all know that Louise is the businessperson in the family – in fact her father jokes that we can all just comfortably retire now that she’s around.

cyclamens

lobster

chateaupl

I went to WHSmith and Galignani on rue de Rivoli all the time when I lived in Paris, probably three times a week. Getting books for me and the kids, magazines, even sweets and tea. Sometimes I would see an attractive book on display in the center of the store, something recently published and beautiful. I always wondered what it would feel like to be among the shelves, to be an author of some kind, to have my own book in the spotlight of a bookstore.
Now I’ve had three days to reflect on the fact that my book is actually for sale in a real bookstore with real customers who in turn choose to buy it even if they could do otherwise. It’s a thrill, I must admit, but it has made me think, now that I’m there “what does it all mean?”
I’ve come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t mean anything at all if I wasn’t proud of it, and I am.
It will be there for our children and their children as a souvenir of the life we had and the food we cooked. It will be there to remind me and my husband that once we were young and had dreams and hoped that our dreams might give wings to the dreams of other people.

pumpkins

interiorhunter

tomatoesandspidercrab

But most of all this book is a celebration of good food and mainly good French food. What is French food, is a question I am frequently asked. Is it just frog legs and snails or mainly croque monsieurs and cassoulet’s. What’s the difference between an American steak and a French one? What makes an omelette French and a frittata Italian, are French fries really French? How about French toast?
Go to any city in the world and you can easily find a pizzeria or a trattoria, a noodle bar or a burger joint around the corner. But mostly the bistrots are few and far between. French food is the fancy dress you have in your closet for the annual ball, it’s the tuxedo you take out once or twice a year. It’s a complicated dish best served in a place with three Michelin stars. A tomato and mozzarella salad is so easy to make, that plate of pasta so convenient or just throwing a steak on the grill. But French food is for the chefs … and of course the French.
I guess what I am saying that after three days of reflecting what makes me most happy about this book is not just that it’s there, that I did something exciting or that some people may know my name. It’s the fact that tonight, more people will be making simple, delicious French food, perhaps opening bottles of wine, thinking of France and all is has to offer.

So all there is left to say is bon appétit.

tomatoes

plums

chicken

Merci mille fois

This week is a celebration and joyous spirits. It’s also a time for thank you’s and hope to see you again’s.
Thank you ever so much to my readers to take the time to read my blog and share their thoughts and ideas. Many of you have been with me from the very beginning when a garden cake, photographed on an iPhone traveled the world through cyberspace and increased my readership from a few hundred to many more.
And thank you to everybody who’s contributed to Manger with their products, insights, generosity and general wonderfullness.
A big thank you to the dream team at Clarkson Potter who have made this whole process pure joy.
The wonderful Anna Mintz who trotted up and down Manhattan with the pregnant me in sub-zero temperatures in March yet made me feel warm. Kevin Sweeting who is as sweet as his name suggests.
The incomparable Jenny Kate who designed the book so beautifully. Anna Bond from Rifle Paper Co. for her beautiful illustrations.
And finally the best editor in the world, Rica Allannic, so sharp, so quick, so absolutely wonderful to work with.
Of course our story continues, new house, new adventures but that is, as they say, another book!
I wanted this to be a special post and what better way to make it special than to share two of my absolute recipes from the book. In the year that has passed since I handed in my first manuscript I think I must have made these two more often than any other in the whole book. As for the images in this post, they are photographs that we did specially for the book but did not get into the final version. I thought they deserved a chance to shine.

‘A Kitchen in France’, published by Clarkson Potter available for sale on
AmazonB&NIndiebound

pears

cabbage

choufarcie

Chou farçi

One of my favorite things to serve alongside meat is braised Savoy cabbage. Wonderful things happen when you cook this bitter vegetable with butter and let all the flavors come out. This little dish is really a variation of serving meat with cabbage—it’s all wrapped together in a pretty parcel. Serve it on its own, as a weekend lunch, or as an appetizer for a decadent feast. It’s the sort of dish that will make those at your table wonder, “If this is the starter, what are we having for the main course?”

Serves 6

1 head Savoy cabbage
Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
2/3 pound/300 g ground beef
2/3 pound/300 g good-quality pork sausage meat
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 to 3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon Rabelais spice or ground allspice
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
½ (7-ounce/200-g) can whole tomatoes, crushed, with their juices
1 large egg

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, core the cabbage leaves and separate them, discarding any coarse outer ones. Cook the leaves in boiling water for 8 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Grease the bottom and sides of a deep 7-inch/18-cm soufflé dish or charlotte mold with butter. Put a large pretty cabbage leaf, domed side down, in the dish. Top with another leaf and continue arranging the leaves one on top of another until the entire base and sides are covered. You won’t use all of the leaves at this point (reserve enough for 4 or 5 layers).

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the onion and carrots until softened, 4 minutes. Add the ground beef, sausage, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, spice and season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring once or twice, until the meat is browned.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes, with their juices, and simmer until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

When mixture has cooled, discard the thyme and bay leaf. Add the egg and mix well.
Put a layer of about ½ inch/ 1 cm of the meat in the cabbage-lined dish and top with a cabbage leaf. Repeat until you’ve used all of the meat and filled the dish, about 4 layers. Finish with a final layer of cabbage, making sure to tuck in the leaf on all sides.

Bake for 40 minutes. To unmold, invert a plate over the soufflé dish, flip the plate and dish, and remove the mold. Serve immediately, cut into slices.

Note: Rabelais spice is a mix of allspice, nutmeg and curry – a traditional spice in France since 1820.

galetteperougienne

Galette Pérougienne

This is a wonderful speciality from the medieval town of Pérouges, near Lyon, made from a lemony yeasted brioche dough that is sprinkled with a generous amount of sugar, dotted with butter, and baked in a very hot oven. the sugar caramelizes and each bite is a pure delight. I am very fond of this medieval cake. It is so authentic and simple in taste – exactly what I look for in a dessert.

Serves 4 to 6

3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup/ 80 ml lukewarm water
12 tablespoons/ 1 1/2 sticks/180 g unsalted butter, plus more for the bowl, at room temperature
1 large egg
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 cup/ 100 g granulated sugar
1 1/3 cup/ 160 g all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for rolling

Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water in a small cup. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to dissolve.

In a large bowl, mix together 8 tablespoons/ 120 g of the butter with the egg, lemon zest, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Add the yeast mixture and then gradually add the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until you have a soft and elastic dough.

Shape the dough into a ball, put it in a buttered bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm spot . Press doubled in size, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven, 450°F/ 230°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a parchment-paper-lined surface.roll the dough into a 9-inch/23-inch circle about 1/2 inch/1 cm thick. Press on the edges to make a 1/2-inch/ 1-cm wide raised border. Sprinkle the remaining 6 tablespoons/ 75 g sugar over the dough and dot with the remaining 4 tablespoons/ 60 g butter.

Transfer to the baking sheet and bake until golden and caramelized, 15 minutes. let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

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In Vino Veritas

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Uncle Henry: “Max, have I told you why I enjoy making wine so much?”

Young Max: “You don’t make the wine, Uncle Henry – that guy Dufot does.”

Uncle Henry: (Reproachfully) “In France it’s always the landowner who makes the wine, even though he does nothing more than supervise with binoculars from the comfort of his study. No, I enjoy making wine, because this sublime nectar is quite simply incapable of lying. Picked too early, picked too late, it matters not – the wine will always whisper into your mouth with complete, unabashed honesty every time you take a sip.”

From the film A Good Year based on the Peter Mayle novel

Making wine is dreamy proposition, especially if you love wine and like … making things. It’s a movie-like fantasy many of us share, to buy a plot of land, plant some vines, watch them grow. To open a bottle of the family wine to match the Sunday roast, to set aside a few cases of your children’s birth vintages to celebrate their achievements in the fullness of time (and perhaps a few bottles extra for the failures).

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This summer we bought a beautiful château, albeit one without vineyards. In it’s heyday our new house was part of a larger estate, a proper wine making château that produced glorious wines, but as time passed land was sold, perhaps to settle debts, and now all that remains is a magnificent building with enormous corridors, high ceilings and the grandest rooms. But with no vineyards.
The empty cellars are crying to be restored to their former glory, the shelves dream of being once again stacked with thousands of bottles of wine. (There are of course some hundred bottles of wine in a far corner of the “cave”, pleasing on the eye but much less agreeable on the palate. The previous owner told me I could use them for sauces, but I think even that won’t work – maybe for Halloween?).
So how do you solve a problem like a château without wine? Oddur and I discussed this at length and indulged in fantasies of buying land, building a winery and hopefully making decent wine. We drove around the vineyards near St Yzans, talked about blends and character, we even agreed on the label. There would be a dog on it, a Smooth Fox Terrier, it would be simple, either white or red and in the end we agreed on the name “Humfri”. So that’s as far as we got until more practical matters occupied our plans, things like plumbing & electricity. So Humfri the wine remained just an imaginary bottle, something that only the ghosts of St Yzans could enjoy.

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One of our favorite winemakers are the Cazes family of château Lynch-Bages. They along with a number of other winemaking families have evolved from being a name on a bottle that we loved to drink in Paris to becoming friends in Médoc. Late this summer I had a conversation about my winemaking aspirations with Jean-Michel Cazes and his daughter Kinou, asking them for advice on my little “dilemma”. For them the solution was staring me in the eye, I should make a wine with Viniv, a winemaking enterprise they co-own with a charming French/American named Stephen Bolger (who is now the proud owner of one of our Smooth Fox Terrier puppies from this summer).
I was vaguely familiar with Viniv, had always thought it interesting and this was an opportunity to find out more. To make a long story short Viniv has several vineyards in Bordeaux, in Médoc and on the other side of the Gironde, which we call the right bank. So we visited the vineyards, got to choose which plots we’d be making the wine from (Merlot from the right bank, Cabernet Sauvignon from Pauillac and St. Estèphe – sounds good right?). We accompanied the technical gurus of château Lynch Bages to the vineyards as they chewed on grapes, debating when would be the ideal time to harvest and on several occasions the whole family participated in the “vendanges” itself, picking the grapes by hand, row after row and then sorting the good from the bad once we had returned to the winery. In the fullness of time we will be choosing our blends, guided by one of the finest oenologues in the world, Eric Boissenot, who is already a friend. The good news: 2014 will be a spectacular vintage for Bordeaux wines.

So if you find yourself one day, holding a bottle of Humfri, you will know how it all started.

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Of course the best thing about the harvest are the harvest lunches and we’ve been to quite a few this year. These are joyous affairs, where the châteaux reward the hard work of those in the field, us included, with good wine and a hearty three-course meal. In France nobody goes hungry during the vendanges. We’ve had Basque pork chops and museau de boeuf, pot-au-feu, poule-au-pot and the most sumptuous desserts. All these lunches have inspired me to make a vendanges menu of my own, a seasonal, luxurious but fairly easy to make three course meal that would satisfy any vigneron. Since cepes are literally everywhere and we’ve been having them every day, those had to be included. This summer we had a delightful mushroom dish in San Sebastian at a tapas restaurant called Ganbara (which I highly recommend), pan-fried cèpes with a simple but a game changing egg yolk in the middle. For the main I had to go with pigeons, infused with more cèpes and figs, just like a walk in the woods. And what could be more fitting for a harvest lunch dinner than Chasselas grapes from my grandmother’s hometown of Moissac in the south-west, drenched in the richest red wine caramel and paired with even more figs.

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Truth in Travel

This summer we had the pleasure of shooting a story for Condé Nast Traveler, a ten-page feature on our beloved Médoc. It turned out much more eventful than we could have ever imagined, we fell in love with the creative director of the magazine, Yolanda, and her family, they fell in love with Médoc and the rest is history … and of course a feature in the November issue. We are thrilled to bits to promote Médoc, I think the story turned out great and we even got the cover. I think this must be the first time that the word Médoc is on the cover of that illustrious magazine and to think that I had something to do with that makes simply makes me proud.
Here is a link to the story & photos and there is even a lovely little video on Médoc, shot by Yolanda’s husband Matthew Hranek.
And talking about travel, in about 3 hours we are heading to Paris with a dog and two girls to be there for the launch of my book, A Kitchen in France, that (even if it’s hard to believe) comes out TOMORROW!. Oddur and I will be giving a talk at the American Library in Paris (Rue Camou, 7ème) on the 28th October at 7:30 pm (yes, tomorrow!) and it would make me ever so happy if some of you could come and have a chat with us. Click here for all the details.

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The Prints

When one thing begins sometimes another ends. Tomorrow is the first day of my book’s life but it also marks the end of the pre-order period and the complimentary prints for those who pre-order.
But you still have one final day to get yourself a print.

Available for presale on
AmazonB&NIndiebound

To receive the print, you simply have to click here and fill in your details.

In Canon-Fronsac.

In Canon-Fronsac.

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Cèpes & girolles with egg yolk

This simple and amazing dish was inspired by this summer’s visit to San Sebastian, Spain. We dined at Ganbara, a superb restaurant with local specialities. Each dish arriving at the table was a pure delight, but the one that stuck me most was the grilled mushrooms with the golden egg yolk in the center.

Per person
A handful of cèpes and girolles
1 organic egg yolk
Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper
A sprig of parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Slice the cèpes 1/4 inch thick.

Heat the sauté pan until very hot. Add the sliced cèpes, season with salt and pepper. Cook on each side until golden, then add a knob of butter. Transfer to a serving plate and place the egg yolk in the center. sprinkle with chopped parsley. Pour yolk over mushrooms. Serve immediately.

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Pigeon with figs & cèpes

There’s something so autumnal about this meal, so deep in colors and flavors… as if you entered the forest. The pigeon, cooked with the figs, the cèpes and the red wine makes this dish unforgettable.

Serves 3-4

3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
2/3 pigeons, cleaned and cut into 4 pieces
1 onion, sliced finely
1 large turnip, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced finely
160 ml/ 2/3 cup red wine
160 ml/ 2/3 cup chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme
8 figs, quartered
About 2 to 3 large cèpes, sliced
Sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter on a medium heat. Cook the pigeons on all sides until golden. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside on a plate and keep warm. In the same pot, cook the onions and garlic for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the sliced turnip. Pour the wine and reduce for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, figs and thyme – stir gently. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan until very hot. Add the sliced cèpes, season with salt and pepper. Cook on each side until golden, then add small knob of butter. Add to the pot. Return the pigeon to the pot and cover. Transfer to a preheated oven 170°C/ 340°F for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Roast figs and Chasselas grapes with a red wine caramel

Serves 4

8 figs, cut in quarters
A few small sprigs of Chasselas grapes

For the red wine caramel

1/3 cup/ 65 g granulated sugar
1/3 cup/ 80 ml red wine

Make the sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup/65 g of the sugar and the wine and bring to a low boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat slightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to a syrup, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Slice the figs in quarters and place in an oven-proof dish. Place a few small sprigs of chasselas grapes all over. Transfer to the oven on the grill setting until the fruits are roasted, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on oven strength. Drizzle the red wine caramel over the fruits and serve immediately.

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MUSHROOM STORY, A RECIPE FROM MY COOKBOOK

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Around this time last year we were putting the finishing touches on the first draft of my upcoming cookbook, A Kitchen in France. One of the last recipes we photographed was the one for pork cheek ravioli with cèpes (porcini mushrooms). By then we had been spoilt by so much success in the field of mushroom foraging that we never made any plans ahead when it came to girolles or cèpes. They were simply there, waiting to be snapped up wherever and whenever one of my recipes required. My kids love making ravioli and since this was on a week-end we decided to shoot this recipe with the mushrooms we already had, and made plans for a big cèpes hunt the following monday. My husband & “official” photographer had very ambitious ideas, he wanted to get at least fifty big ones and then he planned to photograph them in the most beautiful way for the book.
Monday came and off we trotted, armed with our Opinel pocket knifes, some brushes to clean the cèpes, a couple of baskets and two reliable dogs, who though they are useless for finding mushrooms are swell company and fairly obedient. After about two hours we hadn’t found a single cèpe, my hair was starting to get all frizzy and unphotogenic from the rain, spirits were dropping fast. By noon the situation had improved slightly, we had found one “mushy” mushroom and another pretty good one. Not fifty but not exactly zero either. Though we were loath to give up and continued for a while, our total stayed the same, a paltry two.

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Some days later, when we were looking at the photos, choosing which ones to send to my editor, we noticed a pretty nice, proud looking cèpe in the middle of the photo (it’s there if you take a close look). We had walked past it many times, we had even photographed it but somehow we missed it. And how could we miss it, so glaringly obvious in that photo, was it even there for real or was this some foul play of the forest, a cèpe that’s invisible to the naked eye but apparent to the lens of the camera?
It has been proven many times over that the things we look for are often right under our noses, that we usually find the things we need when we are not looking for them. We didn’t really need this mushroom story to tell us that. But what this story teaches me is not to take the forest for granted. You can count on the baguette at your local boulangerie, if you plant sage or thyme or tomatoes in your garden they will be there when you need them. The forest, however, gives when it wants to give. So I approach it with humility, I make no assumptions. If I find two cèpes or twenty I’m just happy with what I get.

Maybe there is a story in that.

All dressed up for the big day.

My cookbook is a “her” and not a “the”, let’s be clear about that. She’s very excited about her big day, 28th of October, and she counts the days until all of you can flick through her pages. You’ve seen her outfit, which is a scene from a kitchen. That’s how she will be dressed for her big day. But what most of you may not know is that underneath, if you take off her dress, she’s wearing another nice little number, a few glistening red berry barquettes. I just thought you should know in advance so you wouldn’t think that there were two versions. It’s just one version, with two layers.

Available for presale on
AmazonB&NIndiebound

And because I wouldn’t want any of you to miss out, one more reminder for those of you who have or will order my cookbook “A Kitchen in France” that you have a nice print waiting for you and all you have to do is click here and fill in your details.

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Pork cheek ravioli with cèpes – a recipe from “A kitchen in France”.

I frequently make pasta at home, especially ravioli, usually with Italian-inspired stuffings and sauces. The filling in this one, though, is all French and I serve it with an equally French creamy wine sauce. It’s a dish I like to make when I have some time, typically on a Saturday, with a bit of music in the background. The kids enjoy helping me roll out and cut the ravioli, then we fill them together and prepare a fine little feast.

Serves 6

For the filling and garnish
¼ cup/ 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces/ 300 g pork cheeks
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bouquet garni
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup / 180 ml dry red wine
12 ounces/ 340 g fresh cèpes (porcini)
1 shallot, minced
A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons / 30 g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (or additional) port or red wine
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml heavy cream
A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
For the pasta dough
4 cups/ 480 g all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more as needed
Pinch of fine sea salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Start the filling. In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the pork cheeks on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and cook the onion, carrot, and half of the garlic until lightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the pork cheeks to the pot, add the bouquet garni, and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine and bring to a low simmer. Add water just to cover the meat. Cover with a lid, lower the heat, and simmer until the meat is very tender and falling apart, about 2 hours.
While the pork is cooking, make the pasta dough. Put the flour on a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Add the salt, eggs, and olive oil. Using a fork, mix the egg mixture; then gradually mix in the flour, using your hands when the dough is too stiff to stir. Then knead with the heels of your hands, sprinkling the dough with additional flour if it gets too sticky, until it is soft and elastic, but still lightly sticky, 6 to 8 minutes. Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Continue with the filling. Cut half the mushrooms –the nicest ones-into quarters and reserve for garnish. Thinly slice the remaining mushrooms.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, then add the shallot and the remaining garlic and cook until the mushrooms are slightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and set aside to cool.
Drain the pork cheeks, reserving the broth, and transfer to a plate to cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer the pork cheeks to a food processor, add the cooked mushrooms and 4 to 5 tablespoons of the broth, and process for about 3 seconds to gently mix. Season with salt and pepper.
With a rolling-pin, roll out the dough on a floured surface just until it is thin enough to fit through the rollers of a pasta machine. Using the pasta machine, roll the dough as thin as possible, starting with the widest setting and progressing to the thinnest one possible.
Cut the pasta into 3-inch/8-cm squares. Spoon 1 tablespoon pork cheek filling into the center of half of the squares. Moisten the edges of one square with water, top with another pasta square, and press the edges firmly together to seal, taking care not to include any air. Repeat with the remaining pasta squares. Cover the ravioli with a damp towel so they do not dry out.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms for the garnish. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over high heat. Cook the quartered mushrooms until lightly golden, about 30 seconds on each side. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add ½ cup/ 120 ml of t he reserved pork broth and the port and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat, add the cream, and return the cèpes to the pan. Stir for 5 seconds to combine, then take off the heat. Keep warm.
Drop the ravioli into the boiling water and stir gently. The ravioli are cooked when they float to the surface, about 1 ½ minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to warm shallow bowls. Top with the mushrooms and sauce, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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AND SUMMER LINGERED ON

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The thing that wouldn’t leave

As a kid watching TV I used to love the sketch on Saturday Night Live “The thing that wouldn’t leave”, about an awful houseguest that overstayed his welcome. Later, regrettably, I must confess that I’ve come across this being in various shapes and sizes, though not too often or too severely. It’s the most comic of situations, Mr and Mrs are ready to head to bed but the visitor, doesn’t get or doesn’t want to get the signals. In any case he stays too long.
Then there is that other character, the darling uncle that everybody wants to stay forever, his welcome has no expiry date. He’s the one that you’ll gladly put up on the couch in the living room, or better yet, in the five-star guest bedroom. He doesn’t want to leave, you don’t want him to go, and thus, though goodbyes have been said, though he’s had the last sip of port many times over – he’s still there and everybody is happy about it.
Lately we’ve had an uncle like that, he’s called summer. After dinner, after port and cheeses and sweets we said goodbye to him, but he’s still here, and nothing could make me happier. For weeks now we’ve been predicting autumn, every al fresco meal has been thoughtfully appreciated as if it were the last one for a while. But then a new day comes, out go the plates of summer salads, the chilled wine, the refreshing desserts. The swimming pool thought she’d be off duty by now but she’s more in demand than ever.
As I am writing this they are writing summer’s obituary once again, apparently sweater season is soon upon us.
Autumn is welcome in this house but until then we’ll be happy to entertain that other uncle, the summer that wouldn’t leave – write him off at your own peril.

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Bat in a glass

Apart from amazing weather these last few weeks have been dominated by another “thing”, a very large and mysterious old château that will soon be our home. The main work is focused around the heart of the house, the kitchen, and the adjoining rooms where I will open a restaurant next summer and where I will host cooking workshops very soon. Seeing it come to life is so rewarding and promising and we can’t resist going there almost every day. The previous owner left us lots of little treasures to discover, cases of wine in the cellar, oddities in cupboards and chests, an old French flag, a framed certificate of a “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur”, old recipe diaries, coins and curiosities. A treasure hunt in our very own house, finding interesting objects but also clues that bring us closer to the past history and spirit of la maison. Last weekend we were excited to see how the work was progressing in the kitchen so after our outdoorsy lunch we headed to St Yzans to monitor the travaux. All the kids tagged along, their favorite thing is to peel away the wallpaper and argue who gets which room (although that has long since been decided).
We love to put on music in the old gramophone we found in one of the soon to be guest rooms and the nostalgic music, more precisely Tony Murena’s ‘café au lait‘, echoes throughout the house. On one of our first visits, we were surprised by a bat that seemed to have taken up lodgings on the top floor and though we haven’t seen it since, Hudson, our eight year old boy is very much on alert, once he even brought an umbrella for protection. Last Saturday, we found a beautiful, old glass dome and it reminded me of a trip to the taxidermy shop Deyrolles in Paris. It was just before Christmas and Oddur desperately wanted to buy a skeleton of a bat, gloriously stored in such a glass display. I wasn’t too keen, the item itself … and the price tag were rather off-putting to me. If I remember correctly I gave him an overcoat instead and stupidly a stuffed toy dog (talking about opening Pandora’s box).
On the whole I think I much prefer an empty glass dome and a live bat flying somewhere outside it – a much more hopeful display. And years from now, when people ask me “why do you leave that beautiful dome empty?” I will simply say “It’s a long story … but it’s got to do with a bat”.
Of course if I change my mind I can always use the dome for cheese.

ps: Once again, just a quick reminder for those of you who have or will order my cookbook “A Kitchen in France” that you have a nice print waiting for you and all you have to do is click here and fill in your details.

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Lentil soup
(Serves 6 as a starter)

There are so many different layers in this soup, from the nutty lentils to the crispy breadcrumbs and pancetta. The garlic cream gives this soup and extra punch. The soup is very easy to make – just make sure to prepare the garnishing while the soup is cooking.

230 g/ 8 ounces dried green lentils
1 large carrot, peeled & sliced
1 onion, peeled & sliced
60 g/ 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
A few sprigs of parsley, leaves picked and chopped finely
100 g/ 1 & 2/3 cup stale bread, ground coarsely
30 ml/1/8th cup olive oil
150 g/ 1/3 pound sliced pancetta
120 ml/ ½ cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat half of the butter in a large pot, cook the onions and carrots for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium heat.
Add the lentils and thyme. Pour about 1.5 1iters of water. Season with salt & pepper.
When the soup starts to boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the following:

For the garlic breadcrumbs
Place bread and one clove of garlic in a food processor. Pulse until coarse crumbs form. Heat olive oil in a large pan and sauté the breadcrumbs on a medium heat until golden and crisp. Leave to cool and set aside. Season with salt.

For the pancetta
Heat a sauté pan on a medium heat and cook the pancetta on both sides until golden. Drain on paper towels and chop finely.

Garlic cream

Mince garlic with garlic crusher. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and crushed garlic on a medium to low heat, stir well until mixture is warm. Pass the sauce through a sieve. Set aside.

Mix the soup with a stick blender. Add the remaining butter and stir until melted.

Serve the soup with a spoonful of garlic breadcrumbs, chopped pancetta and parsley on top. Drizzle with a bit of garlic cream.

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Roast leg of lamb with basil cream

(serves 6)

This classic dish is a family favorite, and I love this refreshing basil cream sauce – it flavors the meat in all the right way. Serve with roast potatoes so they can soak up all the goodness.

1 leg of lamb – gigot d’agneau (about 2.5 kg 5 to 6 pounds)
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 large carrot, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 large bunch of basil, leaves picked
120 ml/1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
120 ml/1/2 cup heavy cream
Olive oil
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F

Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof /heatproof roasting pan on a medium heat, and brown lamb on all sides. Season with salt & pepper. Add the garlic cloves, sliced carrot & onion, transfer to the preheated oven and roast for 45 to 55 minutes for medium-rare, adjust timing depending on desired ‘cuisson’.
Remove lamb from pan and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Make the sauce
Heat the roasting pan and all its juices on a medium heat, scoop out the excess fat with a spoon, and bring to a boil. Add chicken or vegetable stock and reduce to half. Season with salt & pepper. Add the heavy cream and chopped basil. Stir the sauce for a couple more minutes until it thickens slightly and take off the heat. Pass the sauce though a sieve.
Serve the carved leg of lamb with a generous drizzle of basil cream sauce and roast potatoes.

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Grape tart/ La tarte aux raisins
(Serves 6)

This seasonal tart is a recipe given by my friend Claire. It’s actually her mother’s recipe, using grapes from her local vineyard. She recommends using smaller purple grapes, so you don’t have to de-seed them. The almond-based cream is delicious, and I love the combination with the sweet and tangy grapes.The perfect wine-harvest season tart. Merci Claire!

You will need ¾ to 1 pound purple grape (preferably smaller ones), rinsed

For the pastry
240 g/ 2 cups plain flour
1 egg yolk
90 g/ 6 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
75 g/ ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
60 g / ½ cup almond, ground
45 ml/ 3 tablespoons cold water
1 pinch of salt
In a large bowl, combine the butter with the egg yolk, sugar and salt. Add the ground almond,flour and enough water. Mix until you get a smooth dough. Make a ball and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

For the cream
60 g/ ½ cup almond, ground
65 g/ 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
60 g/ 4 tablespoons plain butter
25 g/ 1 tbsp cornstarch
50 ml/ 3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F

In a saucepan, melt the butter on a medium-low heat, add the ground almond, cornstarch and milk. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy. Take off the heat and add the egg yolks/sugar mixture and vanilla extract. Mix with a wooden spoon until the cream is smooth, return to the heat stirring constantly until the cream has thickened to a custard. Take off the heat, pour into a bowl, cover with a film and leave to cool.
Line your tart pan with the pastry, prick the bottom several times with a fork and fill the tart with the custard, smooth the top with a spatula and transfer to the oven for 15 minutes. (I put the tart on the upper part/level of the oven)
Place the grapes (if you prefer, you can halve and seed them – place cut side down) on the custard and return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Leave to cool and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Just before serving, heat 2 tablespoons grape jelly (if you don’t have grape jelly, use cranberry) in a saucepan and brush over the tart.

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Oysters in the afternoon

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There are times when I feel my culinary life has been taken over by a certain fruit or flavor. When every market stall, my kitchen table and even my brain is immersed in a single-minded symphony of strawberries or tomatoes, when the choice seems so limited but the possibilities endless. The last few weeks have seen us up to our knees in tomatoes and I don’t think I’ve cooked a meal for over a month that hasn’t included tomatoes in some shape or form. These food invasions are part and parcel of being on that carousel of seasonal cooking and the thing I love most is that they are all so predictable and comforting in their repetitiveness, for what are traditions but a repeat performance of last year’s feast. The fava bean deluge of April, the artichokes of May are no less predictable than Christmas or Easter – you know they’re coming and you prepare to enjoy them. But then there is that other type of food invasion, the ones that don’t dance to the tunes of the calendar but rather to fashion and whimsy and blind chance. You might come home from a holiday in Italy and have Aperol Spritz every day (until you’d never want to have it again) or you suddenly get a delivery of 30 kg of rice and you deliberately cook around it. You start with curries and Chinese dishes but then you start thinking of French ways of including them like blanquette de veau or a colonial dish like kedgeree.

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oysterpersillade2

Two weeks ago we were attacked by molluscs. Living in Médoc oysters are very much part of every day life, and while they are, in my mind at least, associated with the colder months, such rules have little meaning when you live close to oyster paradise. Every market in the region has at least one or two oysterman and on weekends roads are lined with little trucks or tables offering oysters to passersby. So we tend to have them about once or twice a week, usually as a starter and almost always raw, with just a squeeze of lemon or with a drizzle of shallots in vinegar. To have more than 6 or 12 at a time or to have them three days in a row, that hardly ever happens. Until two weeks ago.

oysterpark

capferretboat

figs

figs&shallots

It all started in Bordeaux. We had gone there for some business that must have been very tedious since I have completely forgotten what it was. To make the day more enjoyable we had decided to try a new bistrot, recently opened in Bordeaux, called Le Glouton. It’s owned our friends, Ludovic le Goardet and his wife Elisabeth. He used to be the chef at our beloved Café Lavinal in Pauillac. Due to poor planning and Friday traffic (mainly poor planning) we arrived so late that everyone else had left and to make up for lost time we just phoned ahead to ask the chef to serve us what ever he liked and was most convenient for him. First we had baked oysters with Béarnaise sauce, then chicken in puff pastry, beef cheek raviolis and the richest grilled chocolate mousse. All delicious but afterwards I kept thinking about the oysters. I’ve had baked oysters a thousand times, with shallots, wine, en persillade … but this I’d never had. And I wanted it again. The next day we bought some oysters at the market and I tried my own version. It worked, not least when paired with rosé. It’s a decadent combination, feels modern and old-fashioned at the same time, and so fitting for the season, like a swan song to summer and a welcome for autumn.

oystersreadyforoven

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We did, however, want more oysters. The next day, a Sunday, we headed for Cap Ferret which in September is as close to perfection as you can get. The crowds have mostly gone but it’s still lively, with less traffic and no reservations. We had the loveliest of Sundays, and we had oysters … lots of oysters.
One of our rituals are the mussels with sausage meat and french fries at Chez Hortense but because we were in an oyster mood we added a sneaky order of baked oysters en persillade and another of baked oysters with foie gras. Then we headed to the oyster shacks that are everywhere, local producers who make oysters for the rest of France but offer visitors a chance to taste the delicacies. These are simple, no fuss institutions, with (sometimes mismatched) wooden tables and chairs, with extremely limited choice (read only oysters) and a choice between white, rosé or red. If you don’t like oysters these are not the places to be.

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Driving home, enjoying the fluidity of the road I decided that my next post (if I would ever have the time to do one) would be dedicated to oysters. In fact, considering how much I love them I feel like I have been neglecting them. They are such ideal food, low in calories, easy to prepare, fantastic little proteins that are rich in calcium and iron. And simply so delicious. The following Tuesday we bought 6 dozen oysters at the market. I wanted to recreate some of the flavors from my oyster weekend and perhaps come up with a few of my own. Mainly I just wanted more oysters. Oddur and I did what we love best, threw all the oysters on our blue table and started opening them side by side. In the course of the day I made one recipe after another, we shelled, cooked and shot. My mother-in-law who doesn’t like oysters at all asked “what are you going to do with all these oysters when you are finished photographing them?”, eating them was for her out of the question. The kids were all at school so no help to be found there (most of them have come to appreciate oysters). In the end we just ate them all, one type after another, paired with rosé and white and Sauternes, between lunchtime and “pick-up kids from school time” 72 oysters found their way into our stomachs and each one tasted better than the next. It was where gourmandise meets gluttony.
Having 72 oysters in one sitting is a small achievement but when compared to the endeavours of a much more famous glutton, Honoré de Balzac himself it simply feels like a very light lunch. Balzac was famous for discipline when writing his books, working for 18 hour stretches and keeping himself hungry by feeding himself only fruit and the strongest “stomach burning” coffee. When the book was finished Monsieur Balzac completely changed his tune, headed to his favorite restaurant and famously cried out “Garçon, un cent d’huîtres!” or “Waiter, a hundred oysters!”. This he washed down with four bottles of white wine, followed by a dozen lamb chops, a duck with turnips, partridge, a Normandie sole and finally dessert. I don’t think I will ever scale the heights of Monsieur Balzac but one can always aspire.

When the children came home from school that night and asked the question they always ask “what’s for dinner?” I simply answered “Not oysters!”

ps: Just a quick reminder for those of you who have or will order my cookbook “A Kitchen in France” that you have a nice print waiting for you and all you have to do is click here and fill in your details.

freshoysters

oysterman

Oysters in a Béarnaise sauce

12 oysters
1/2 cup/ 120 g clarified butter
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml white wine
1 tablespoon/15 ml white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lukewarm water
2 egg yolks
1 shallot (chopped very finely)
A few sprigs of fresh chervil (chopped finely) – save some
A few sprigs of fresh tarragon (chopped finely)
6 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Clarify the butter – melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat. Simmer gently until the foam rises to the top. You should see the milk solids separating. Set aside to cool slightly, discard the foam, and pour the clear clarified butter in a bowl. You only want to keep the ‘clear’ butter which is perfect for cooking on high temperature and making sauces. (You might want to use a fine strainer if you wish).

In another saucepan, combine the vinegar, white wine, finely chopped shallot, the herbs, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. Remove from heat, add the 2 egg yolks and the 2 teaspoons of water and whisk continuously. Return to a low heat, continue to whisk, and remove from heat every 1 minute – repeat this process for 8 minutes, constantly whisking until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add the cooled clarified butter, continue to whisk until smooth. Return to the heat and whisk for 30 seconds, or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Set aside and leave to cool.

Whisk the heavy cream until stiff, and fold into the cooled Béarnaise sauce.

Shuck the oysters. Place a teaspoon or 2 of the sauce (depending on oyster size) on top of each oyster. Arrange oysters in an oven-proof dish or tray and place under a preheated grill for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and golden. Sprinkle fresh chervil on top (optional) Serve immediately.

oysterpersillade

Oysters en persillade
(recipe from Ludovic Le Goardet at Le Glouton bistrot in Bordeaux)

24 oysters (I used Cap Ferret or Marennes Oléron)
1/2 cup/ 120 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 garlic cloves
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
1 teaspoon fleur de sel/ coarse salt
A dash of freshly black pepper
1/2 pinch ground nutmeg
3/4 cup/45 g breadcrumbs

In a food processor, mix garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix for 30 seconds. Add the butter (at room temperature) and mix 10 more seconds until you get a smooth paste.
Shuck the oysters. Place a teaspoon of garlic butter on top of each oyster and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Arrange oysters in an oven-proof dish or tray and place under a preheated grill for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic butter is bubbly and golden. Serve immediately.

oysterswithfoiegras

Oysters with foie gras & Sauternes wine

12 oysters
150 g foie gras (raw)
1 to 2 teaspoons of Sauternes wine
Coarse sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper

Shuck the oysters. Place a small slice of foie gras on top of each oyster, then pour one to 2 teaspoons of Sauternes wine. Season with salt and pepper. Place oysters in an oven-proof dish or tray and transfer to a preheated grill. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

oysterswithsausagemeat2

Oysters with sausages

6 oysters
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or if you prefer, olive oil)
2 or 3 sausages,
1 clove garlic, sliced finely
1 shallot, minced
A dash of ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons of red wine
Olive oil, to drizzle
A few sprigs of chives, finely chopped
Coarse sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic breadcrumbs
3/4 cup/45 g breadcrumbs
1/2 clove garlic, minced
Mix both ingredients together in a small bowl.

Slit the sausages sideways and squeeze the meat out of the skins.

Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots until softened, add the sausage meat, garlic, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir, until the meat is cooked. Pour in the wine and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Take off the heat & set aside.

Shuck the oysters. Place 2 teaspoons of the sausage filling on top of each oyster. Sprinkle garlic breadcrumbs on top and drizzle a bit of olive oil. Arrange oysters in an oven-proof dish or tray and place under a preheated grill for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden. Sprinkle the chives on top. Serve immediately.

onions&figs

PRINTS, POTATOES & LAST YEAR’S FEAST

cover

“You are having two babies this year”, a lot of people kept telling me this spring. They meant, of course, the one living in my bump and my cookbook which was by then on its way to the printers. As many of you know by now the first one arrived, if not altogether surprisingly, at least surprisingly quickly at the end of May. The second baby is still on its way but at least in this case the delivery date is firmly fixed, the 28th of October, not a day later or before. The element of surprise is how many of you have already pre-ordered the book. It warms my heart that you should have such faith in my cooking that you are prepared to buy it unseen. Merci mille fois. I had a discussion about this with the good people at Clarkson Potter/Random House and we all thought it was a good idea to reward this faith in some way, our little way of saying thank you. After some deliberation we felt that offering all you pre-orderers a little print from Manger might be appreciated, and to be totally honest (for this is an honest blog) we certainly won’t mind if this encourages even more people to pre-order the book.

It works like this. Those of you who have preordered the book or will order the book before the official publication date can click on http://app.snapapp.com/AKitchenInFrance and fill in your details. If you have any problems with this procedure or questions please feel free to contact akitcheninfrance@penguinrandomhouse.com The person on the other end of this email is a fine fellow called Kevin Sweeting. I had the pleasure to spend some time with him at Random House in NY in March and I think we are all in good hands with him. We chose three prints that we feel represent well what we are doing and hope you will agree with our selection. Those who fill in their details will receive one of the prints, which one will be a surprise. I hope you are happy with this arrangement and our selection of prints, that is all that matters.
Available for presale on
AmazonB&NIndiebound

The three prints

meringueprint

treeprint

pearsprint

A feast in October

Last year in October we had one of the best outdoor feasts we’ve ever had. We had already passed our deadline for the book but some recipes had not yet been photographed. The team from Canal+ were arriving the following Monday and we knew from experience that shooting for TV leaves little room for anything else. So we had this idea to throw one final glorious feast the Sunday before, cook everything that was missing from the book and have a blast of a time. And we did. We invited some of our favorite people and I started at the stove. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful feast. Of course it wasn’t seamless, we had a few mini-crisis. There were no cèpes to be found, the weather was fickle at best, Oddur forgot to buy gambas. In the end it all worked out, our friends unexpectedly brought the gambas, our other friends, the snail farmers sorted out the cèpes. Even the weather showed a kind side. If there was ever a “Manger event”, this was it. Oddur jumping on tables to photograph, dogs stealing food, more wine than perhaps was necessary and so much food that everyone left happy and heavy.
A standout dish from that day was funnily enough not the quails, gambas or even the foie gras. Not even the cèpes tartlets or harvest soup or apple tart with orange flower water. That day the dish that we all wished we had more of was the simplest, humblest of all. The potatoes, Lyonnaise style. We’ve had this dish countless times this year and speaking of babies, when I was in the clinic with Audrey May, Oddur made it practically every night with his steak, quails and other extravaganzas. This summer he’s been cooking it with both our boys and some of the girls, I’ve been cooking it, it seems, every other night. If there ever was a dish for every season and every occasion this is it … and here it is, in all its simple glory. Anyone can do it, and that’s what I love about it – you see for me cookbooks are there to inspire and encourage, to give recipes but also ideas.

Potatoes and Onions, now that’s an idea.

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lyonnaisepotatoes

Potatoes à la Lyonnaise

Serves 4

2 pounds/ 900 g new potatoes, peeled
About 11 tablespoons/ 150 g unsalted butter
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, thinly sliced
A bunch of fresh parsley, leaves removed and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Put the potatoes in a large pot, add enough salted cold water to cover, bring to a boil, and cook until parboiled, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cool running water. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch/3- to 4-mm-thick slices.

In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add about one-quarter of the potatoes and fry, seasoning them with salt and pepper, until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Continue frying the potatoes, adding more butter each time (you should use about 8 tablespoons / 120 g in total), until all of them are cooked.

Meanwhile, in another sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons / 30 g butter over medium heat. Cook the onions until golden, about 5 minutes.

Return all of the potatoes to the pan, add the onions, and mix gently. Cook for 5 more minutes for the flavors to combine.

Transfer the potatoes and onions to a large baking dish. Bake until gently sizzling, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the parsley over the potatoes and serve.

feastgeorge

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