Oh So Quiet in Saint Yzans

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Theory of relativity

To most people, describing my kitchen as a quiet place would seem a stretch. If you’d walk through the door on any given day of the year you would most likely find me hovering over my pots and pans, often in an excited manner. You’d probaly notice some dogs on the floor or, in Jeanie’s case, on a chair. There would be a number of children plying their trade and by plying their trade I mean causing some trouble, to each other, to me, to themselves. There would be music, most likely some jazz, a crooner or if it was Friday and I had control of the “Bose” some decadent 80’s music. That’s when my husband would walk in and lower the volume slightly then complain why everything wasn’t as perfect looking as it is in his photos. He would scan the room for plastic objects (plastic is his enemy) and without being told, the (sensible) children would make them disappear. At some point I might get defensive about my messiness and point to the dog hair on the floor. Then he would get defensive and without really saying it he would make it clear that the dogs, well are the dogs and are immune to prosecution. I am in a constant state of bemusement at how a man so affected by the visuals around him is so tolerant of creatures so utterly incapable of sustaining those visuals. My only answer: we are all a muddle of contradictions and my husband is no exception. At some point someone would cry and someone would quickly say “it’s not my fault”. There might be an unexpected visitor popping through the back door, Sasha our Russian builder giving us an update or Monsieur Teyssier bringing flowers. All in all not quiet at all. But that’s where relativity comes into the picture. Not quiet but quiet COMPARED to the last few weeks of back to back workshops. Quiet compared to the night we had five extraordinary Mexican ladies enjoying a civilized scallops and cauliflower mash dinner in the green room while in the kitchen a band of brothers, Matt & Oskar (see the meatball challenge), Dewey Nicks, his assistant Henry, Oskar’s assistant Wilfried, Oddur and Tim our musician/gardener grilled every meat known to man and later, I am told, burst into song. And that‘s not to mention the children or my wonderful mother-in-law Johanna ghosting around, picking the best of everything. After nights like that. After weeks like that. Going back to just being a big family with lots of dogs feels oh so quiet and oh so good.

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Of aging fruits and vegetables

And what have I done with this quiet time. Lots of walks and drives around our new neighborhood. A time to test our new car monster (confession here – I don’t drive… umm, I don’t know how to drive, it’s a long story), a Land Rover Defender posturing as a Hummer with a dubious past in the desserts of Africa. The vineyards are all springing to life, the roses are coming out. Tim is advancing in the garden and we’re having spinach and kale every day. But a side-effect of having a kitchen go “quiet” is all the food that’s left and needs cooking … urgently! The stacks of asparagus and artichokes, apples and fava beans and chard. We always have generous piles of food but lately they’ve grown into mountains. A whole gang of senior citizens reminding me every day of their worth. “We’re not going gently”, “we’re not going gently into that good night” they’ve been buzzing in my ear. And I listened and I cooked them all. The aging apples ended up in a sauce paired with pork chops, the asparagus was served as soup. Many artichokes took to the stage disguised as a risotto. And the chard, this time the chard was the hero, the leading man. Last week-end I made some potato and chard galettes, we’ve used it for my next ELLE recipes (I contribute every month for French ELLE, it’s called ‘Fiches Cuisine‘) but since Easter (and yes I know I am late sharing this recipe) I’ve made this Italian Easter tart from a recipe by the ever-inspiring Angela Frenda (she’s the superb food editor-in-chief for the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera) at least twice a week. We’ve done if for the workshops, I’ve done it in my spare time, along with an Artichoke soufflé I can’t think of a more perfect spring lunch. Talking of spring, it always warms my heart to go to a market and see fresh strawberries at this time of the year. At first they come from foreign lands but then the day arrives where the sign next to them says FRANCE and a few days or weeks later I don’t even need a sign because the lady selling them is my neighbor and I know she has the finest strawberries I’ve ever tasted. Of course fresh strawberries taste best just like that, how they were born, maybe with a little cream. But after a little while one gets more creative and voilà, an ice cream is born.

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You can’t win’em all.

Today is a special day, my husband’s birthday. We’ve had 4 children together in 10 years and altogether we have 7 between us. I think that’s a decent crop, I’m happy with it and I’m done. I’m sooo done! But yesterday my mother-in-law dug an old photograph out of her suitcase, it’s her grandparents, Ingveldur and Olafur, and their 10 children. Some people say that my husband, Oddur, inherited a few of his great-grandfather’s looks and character. I can see that, up to a point. The cheekbones, the encyclopedic memory, the fondness for making children. The hairstyle, not so much!

My darling I just want to say this. Happy birthday, I love you. Some records are not meant to be broken.

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Chard & egg pie/ Torta Pasqualina

This delicious pie is adapted from Angela Frenda, the food editor-in-chief at Corriere della Sera. It’s a typical Italian Easter pie, some call it the Easter cake. There are many variations of this recipe, but I fell in love with Angela’s version. Here’s a plus, you can even see her make it here. Isn’t she lovely?

Ingredients:

350 g/ 12 ounces Swiss chard/blette
150 g/ 1/3 pound Ricotta cheese
50 g/ 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
20 g/ 1/4 cup Pecorino cheese
2 puff pastry sheets, 230 g/ 8 ounces each
5 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chard and cook in a pot of salted boiling water for about 8 minutes. Drain and squeeze out all the water, as much as possible (this is very important or the pie will be soggy). Chop into strips.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, one egg, Parmesan and Pecorino cheese. Add the chard and mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper.

Line a rectangular baking/cake pan with the pastry sheet. Prick the base a few times with a fork and fill with the chard mixture .

With the help of a spoon, lightly dig 3 small holes so you can crack an egg in each one. Cover the pie with the second pastry sheet and seal the edges with the eggwash. The eggs will cook in the oven and set beautifully.

Brush the surface with the egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F for about 40 to 50 minutes.

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Strawberry ice-cream

Even though I have an ice-cream maker, I love the simplicity of making a quick and easy ice-cream, no churning needed – all you need is a bit of time in the freezer. I have recently started to experiment lots of different recipes (getting ready for summer), and the results have been marvellous. Ice-cream forever! ps: you can leave little chunks of strawberries if you wish, but I prefer without, it gives a creamier ice-cream)

350 ml/ 1 & 1/2 sweetened condensed milk/lait concentré sucré
240 ml/ 1 cup heavy cream/ crème entière
400 g/ 2 cups strawberries, hulled
50 g/ 1/2 cup confectionner’s sugar, sifted

Place the strawberries in the food processor and blend till smooth.

Whisk the cream until light and fluffy. Pour the condensed milk and strawberries. Add the confectionner’s sugar and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a glass container, cover with a lid and place in the freezer for at least 6 to 8 hours.

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AN ITALIAN, AN AMERICAN & AN AUSTRIAN WALKED INTO our kitchen …

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The Médoc meatball challenge

This is when we pick up where we left off. At the end of last post Mr. Carter Inskeep and his associates had just left us and what followed was a quiet week-end, en famille (quiet that is if you overlook the school show on Saturday night that ran “charmingly late” as usual). We had another workshop coming up days later and I was frankly in the mood to relax. I must admit thinking that the first workshop had gone so well, been so special, that we were bound for a slight disappointment with the second one. No doubt the group arriving would be very lovely but the big question was as always, how do you recreate magic?
I think I have the answer to that question, well partly at least, but before I get to that let me once again take a look at the Château log and remind myself of what happened in our house, just before and just after workshops number two and one:

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Monday March 16th was a beautiful, warm day in St Yzans and just after noon Mr. Matthew Hranek, full-time (first class) traveler, style editor and our soon to be part-time neighbor walked into my kitchen with his usual swagger holding a single piece of very mediocre baguette (it’s a joke that takes too long to explain) which he then proceeded to eat. He was followed by his friend and architect, the Austrian Oskar Leo Kaufmann, who was accompanying Matt to make some work estimates on the properties across the street, recently acquired by Matt and his wife, the lovely Yolanda Edwards. Within minutes Matt and Oskar were sipping Rosé wine (the very first of the “summer” – for Rosé can only be served in summer … and “summer”) – and by sipping I mean drinking af fast as their lives depended on it. We had prepared a few little snacks, some Piémontaise salad, really good baguette, dried sausages, pickles – you get the picture. As soon as they were on bottle number two – and believe me that didn’t take very long, something about Americans fresh of the plane and ice-cold rosé that really works well together – another visitor presented herself in my kitchen. Allegra Pomilio of Pescara Italy who will be working with us on the workshops and seasonal restaurant had come by for a quick visit to see if we liked her and if she liked us – a two-day audition … with food & wine. As you can imagine the day after that is more or less a blur of foie gras, champagne, beautiful entrecôtes grilled on sarments, stunning Médoc wines and good times. What can I say, I liked Allegra a lot, I liked Oskar a lot and of course we all adore Mr. Hranek, although I must say that this time I missed him wearing his tuxedo in the evenings.

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In the middle of all this food and fun blurriness, probably around midnight, my husband got it into his head that we should have a cooking competition the next day between all the visiting parties, the food should be Italian, probably meatballs … which later got changed into “Must be meatballs”. The raison d’être for this competition, according to Oddur, would be to A: Have fun B: Give me a little break C: Find out if Allegra could cook D: See how competitive Matt would get, even when competing against a 21-year-old. Let me just go on record and say that while all of the above may have figured in his plans the main reasons was probably that he just wanted meatballs. But fair enough, I like meatballs as much as the next girl, probably a little more.
The next day, an equally beautiful spring day, I stayed behind preparing for the workshop starting the next day but most of the group went looking for ingredients. First stop, the butcher in St-Estèphe (they have great lamb) where it seems to me Oddur dragged the butchers out of their store to pose for pictures with the contestants. They had lunch in Saint-Julien and bought a few great bottles of wine (thank you Oskar) to share in the evening. They arrived late (which made me a little nervous because I was preparing for a workshop) and starting prepping their cooking. That’s when I realized that Matt was in it to win it. He styled his surrounding, used hot water to remove the labels from the passata bottles, he was confident, even threatening. Matt’s mother is Italian and maybe he wanted to win this for his Mamma? Oskar wanted no part of this Italian war and proposed to make a little salad that he loves. When two Italians fight, nobody wants to get in the way. Allegra started slowly but showed great determination, she phoned her mother (quite a few times) she worked with precision and though she wasn’t very fast her commitment earned her some fans in the kitchen. She was not at all fazed by Mr. Hranek’s bullying. I just enjoyed it all, helped out a little bit with Allegra’s meatballs and fiddled around with a lemon ricotta ice cream that turned out pretty nice but will be perfected later. This was also the night that all our visitors fell in love with Bordeaux whites. I feel compelled to share the white wine list: Château Talbot from Saint Julien, Smith Haut Lafitte from Pessac, Villa Bel-Air from Graves, La Louvière from Pessac.

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The sun really played ball with us that evening and shone through the front of the house, all the way to the kitchen where it lit up our little meatball jewels and made the atmosphere magical. Early on we pre-tested Matt’s meatballs and Allegra had to admit “they were good”. But Oddur would reserve his judgement until later. Matt’s king size meatballs, Italian-American style were really good, so was Allegra’s spaghetti with the cutest little meatballs. I was just glad I didn’t have to pick a winner.
The result was kind of boring, but probably fair. Oddur raised himself from his seat and declared the result a draw. Allegra was happy, Matt not so much. “WHAT?” was his reaction.

I just say, win or lose it’s all the same to me as long as the food is great!

When we thought our evening was more or less over, nothing left but to enjoy the ice-cream, and drift slowly into blissful food coma, Tim Steer, our resident gardener/musician threw us a little surprise. He and Anne had spent the afternoon in Bordeaux picking up the next group of people who were scheduled to start cooking in my kitchen/workshop the following morning. Due to a series of events, the pick-up had taken a bit longer and they were now stuck with a minibus filled with very patient but very hungry people, heading for a B&B with no room service, not even a bar. He asked if he could bring them all over, a day (or by then a few hours) early. Of course he could. We had two pots filled with delicious meatballs waiting for someone to have them. It was pure meatball destiny. Then another competition started, between Matt (of course) and Oddur, of who could be more entertaining, funnier, the bigger charmer. I picked my winner from that competition a long time ago but I must say it was close.

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Which brings me back to what I said at the beginning of this text about recreating magic. First you have to tear the sentence apart – deconstruct it. You remove the re- and all you are left with is create. Magic should not be recreated but created. For it to be truly magic, it has to be new, unexpected, different every time. And it was. The first 6 ladies set the bar high, the next 4 + Kevin (remember Sunset wine from Wisconsin Florida?) managed to measure up in a very different but equally delightful way. I must say that the second group cried a little more and as I am writing this I can feel a tear coming, must stop now, love you ladies … I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places, at the Soulac market or Anne’s Brocante.

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Notes from the meatball judge. (my husband, Oddur)

So here I am, so soon after my annual post, stealing the spotlight again. I apologize profoundly but in my defense it’s for a good cause. Italian Meatballs.
For those of you who don’t know Matt he’s a brash, stylish, funny fellow. He loves food, and he loooves to win … at any cost. He intimidated, though in a playful way and tried (though not seriously) to undermine his contestant. He gets points for presentation (his styling was top-notch). He gets points for entertaing the audience and he gets a lot of points for his overblown confidence. He even gets points for showing a softer side and giving Allegra tips on the side (which she probably didn’t need, but still).
Allegra on the other hand is a fairly serious girl who never waivered from her task even if it ran a bit long. And credit to her she wasn’t fazed by Matt’s friendly bullying. She stretched and she reached. Many points for her perseverance.

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But all those points mean nothing when it comes to picking a winner. The funny jokes or 24 karat smile (I’m talking about Matt here) or even the Rolex mean nothing. It’s all in the mouth. And my mouth told me that there was no winner because in the end they didn’t cook the same thing. One was meatballs on a plate, one was a pasta dish. Both were excellent, end of story. Except Matt is probably still wondering how he lost. So let me say it again “A draw is not losing, capisce!”
But the story doesn’t end here. Maybe there was a winner after all. By the time Allegra finished her meatballs it was so dark and everyone so hungry there was no time for shooting. I put some meatballs aside and promised to shoot them later. Which I did 48hrs later. I also put the rest of Matt’s meatballs in the fridge. Yes he made so much that even after feeding us, after feeding a whole workshop there was still lots left. So I cooked some spaghetti, shot the pasta with meatballs, ate it. Then I heated Matt’s meatballs, ate them too.
The result, a draw. Again. Everyone wins, especially the judge who got exactly what he wanted.

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Beetroot, Avocado and Pine Nuts salad
Adapted by Oskar Kaufmann from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe

Serves 4

2 small raw beetroots
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 red chilli, sliced finely
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
¼ teaspoon superfine or caster sugar
2 teaspoon Tabasco or Mexican Cholula hot sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, slightly roasted

Peel the beetroots and slice them very thinly, around 2-3mm thick. It is best to use a mandoline. Put the beetroot in a pot with plenty of boiling water and simmer for three to five minutes, until semi-cooked; it should still be crunchy. Drain and put in a large bowl.
Add the red onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, chilli sauce, salt and pepper to the beetroot bowl and toss everything together gently with your hands are the best tool for this. [Use gloves since the beetroot will turn your hands pink.] Leave to one side for 10-15 minutes, then taste and see if you want to add more sugar, salt or vinegar – it needs to be sharp and sweetish.
When you’re ready to serve, spread half the beetroot mixture on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Top with half the avocado. Drizzle one tablespoon of the lemon juice over the avocado. Sprinkle the coriander, mint, and pine nuts over the avocado slices. Add the rest of the beetroot and arrange the remaining ingredients on top. Drizzle with the remaining lemon juice and a little oil and serve.

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Allegra’s Meatballs

Tomato sauce:

1 onion, chopped finely
1 garlic, sliced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 liter /1 quart of tomato passata
A handful of basil leaves
5 tablespoons white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the garlic, carrot and onion for a few minutes, then pour the white wine and continue to cook for 6 minutes or until softened. Stir in the passata and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours or until thickened and reduced. Add a pinch of sugar if the taste is too acid and at the very end, throw in the basil leaves.

Tip: Add a tablespoon of grated parmesan to sauce before serving.

Meatballs:

500 g/ 1 pound of minced meat ( I usually mix pork and veal )
80 g/ 1/2 cup stale bread, soaked in milk
2 eggs
1 garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of parsley (finely chopped)
60 g/ 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then roll into 2 cm-diameter balls Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry meatballs, turning, for 3 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Set aside.
Add the meatballs to the sauce and continue to cook on a low heat for 15 min.

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Matt’s Mama’s Meatballs

1 kilo/ 2 pounds ground beef (should not be too lean)
2 eggs
45 g/ 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
60 g/ 1 cup breadcrumbs
2-3 garlic minced
60 g/ 1/2 cup crushed pine nuts (this is my addition)
A bunch of chopped parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Duck fat for frying
Extra Pecorino cheese, grated, for serving

For the sauce:
A few plugs of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
A small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
2 liters/ 2 quarts tomato passata

Make tomato sauce

Start with a warm pan, add a couple plugs of olive oil
Add 2 garlic cloves, smashed.
Throw in a handful parsley.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook on a low heat for about 1 to 2 hours.

In a large bowl mix ALL ingredients – make nice medium-sized balls (Americano style), fry in duck fat until browned. (my mom would have used Crisco filling us all with trans fats – but in honor of the Médoc duck fat was used)

After frying the balls drain on paper and add to the sauce and cook for until they are cooked through – about 30 min.
Serve with extra sauce in a shallow bowl with some graded pecorino.

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CAST & CHARACTERS – THE GOOD TIME GIRLS

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Sometimes the man … is a woman

On Wednesday March 13th, a beautiful, sunny early spring day in Médoc, Mr. Carter Inskeep and his associate, Hannah Barry, pulled their white BMW into the driveway at Château Ormes de Pez in St Estèphe. Records show that later that afternoon they shared a bottle of the 2000 Ormes de Pez, an excellent year for Bordeaux wines, and later headed out for dinner where they shared another bottle of Ormes de Pez, albeit from a slightly lesser vintage. The same evening Frau Sabine Simmross of Brussels and her associate Ms Kamiye Furuta arrived at the same destination though records fail to show what bottle of wine, if any, they enjoyed that evening. Earlier in the day, the Norvegian photographer and celebrated instagrammer, Ms Marte Marie Forsberg and her mother Yvonne had narrowly missed, due to extensive security measures, their plane to Bordeaux and were forced to find an alternate route which they found via Limoges by air and to Bordeaux by train later that evening. Mr. Tim J. Steer, the ever pleasant musician/gardener/jack of all trades at “Château Mimi” in St Yzans was already at the airport to greet them when news of this unfortunate occurence reached him. Like all good Englishmen he took this news on the chin and records show that upon his return to Chateau Mimi in St Yzans he had a cold, refreshing beer.
The following day at precisely 8.59 AM Mr. Carter Inskeep and Hannah Barry knocked on the door of 1 rue de Loudenne (sometimes lovingly referred to as Château Mimi), having managed to find their way through the army of dogs who were (badly) guarding the rusty gates. They were soon followed by Sabine Simmross and Kamiye Furuta who despite the general tendencies of their respective nations were a few minutes late. Some 15 minutes later Marte Marie Forsberg and her mother joined the group from their temporary residence down the road, sometimes referred to as the “Three Sisters”. The diary of the Château shows that the group had breakfast together and then proceeded to make a walnut cake recently featured on “Manger”, the Château’s blog, under the headline “Mothers & Daugthers”. The group then proceeded to make 3 stuffed cabbage tarts and while they all tasted equally delicious the workshop log indicates that the clear winner in terms of beauty was the one made by the “American team”. This judgement was not necessarily accepted by the Norwegian team although there is no record of a formal protest. The Château logs go on to recount a dozen other recipes cooked and eaten, a generous amount of coffees and teas and what can only be considered as an indecent quantity of wine bottles consumed, at least five of which were Champagne. The records note that everyone had a really good time.
Though there is nothing in the Château’s records that suggests this it is worth mentioning that Mr. Carter Inskeep is a woman in her mid-twenties.

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Carter, Marie and I.

 

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Anne & Tim.

 

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Oddur and me.

 

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Hannah and Carter… with all the fox-terrier puppies.

 

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Yvonne and Marie.

 

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Sabine and Kamiye.

 

Virtual / Reality

As I am writing this two workshops have come and gone. Ten extraordinary women have graced my kitchen, we have spent countless hours cooking and eating together, stories have been told, laughs have been shared … wine has been drunk. Tears have even been shed … on more than one occasion (which is why my husband refers to these proceedings as the “Jerry Maguire workshops”. It is safe to say that my expectations for these workshops (though pretty high) have been far exceeded and I’m happy to report that this seems to be the general consensus amongst the ten ladies. Writing a blog, a book, sharing my life online is a pleasure and a privilege but it can never, ever come close to meeting people in person. I wasn’t familiar with any of the 10 women before they came, except Marte Marie Forsberg, we have corresponded before and are familiar with the curated version of each other’s life on Instagram. She does take beautiful photos (she took the portrait of me and Oddur) and I could feel, through her IG account some of her personality but while she refers lovingly to her mother in her virtual world the relationship they share outside of it seems even closer, her mother even lovelier. I guess what I am saying is that while seeing what a friend is having for breakfast in Buenos Aires can be quite wonderful and interesting, having them at my table, sharing a bottle of Champagne while peeling onions is far better. During these workshops we share long lunches every day and even longer dinners. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to meet people I would never have met, to invite into my home fellow gourmands and lovers of France. During a long dinner Hannah and Carter asked my husband if we had any screening process, if there were background checks. His answer was that our intelligence was so bad that we thought they, or at least one of them was a man. He then added (he retold this to me) that we were fairly confident that we could easily throw out anyone too weird, whether by that he was referring to his own muscles or the considerably larger muscles of Sasha, our Russian “maçon”. My answer would have been that I don’t expect to ever have to throw anyone out, I expect the good rather than the bad, I try to write earnestly, I put my heart and soul into my cooking and I expect my blog to attract mostly like-minded people.
When I announced the workshops I mentioned that the doors would soon be open … and now they are, open wide!

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Fresh black truffles and fava beans.

 

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Photo diary of a workshop

The photos you see were all taken during the first workshop and I hoped to have them published before the second one. But time is a tough opponent and got the better of me as he often does. In fact we had no special plans to do a blog post about a workshop, many of the recipes we cooked have already been shared on the blog or in the book, the stuffed cabbage, the pigeon tart, the chocolate meringues, the strawberries in mascarpone and wine. But the chemistry was just so great, the opportunity was there so Oddur went ahead and shot some of it to share on “Manger”. He also had a lot of fun dragging the ladies around the house (some into the dark and cold cellar), making them pose with vegetables, wine and puppies. It felt appropriate that workshops born out of a blog should end up there for all of you to share our first experiences … until, that is, you can come in person!
And to make it all a little tastier for you I am sharing two recipes from our workshops, both very light and simple and easy to make. One of them is the simplest little tart but one that looks a little fancy, like a flower on a plate, perfect for an unexpected guest that shows up in the morning but lingers on for lunch. The other recipe is inspired from my lunch with Alain Ducasse and Kevin, the founder of Instagram (another example of technology bringing people together). At that lunch we had incredible food but somehow the thing I liked best was this little vegetable cocotte with quinoa and truffle shavings.

Bon Appetit!

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Recipes

Endives tartlets

These little wonders look like a bunch of country roses, I love the bitter taste of the endive caramelized with butter and sugar. They work perfectly well with a shallot vinaigrette and the best part… it takes a couple of minutes to prepare!

For 7 to 8 tartlets

Ingredients:
4 to 5 endives
230 g/8 ounces puff pastry
Icing/ confectioner’s sugar
1 generous teaspoon of butter per tartlet

For the vinaigrette:
1 small shallot
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F

Roll out the puff pastry and cut out 6 to 8 circles to fit the tartlet pans.
Cut the tip off the endives.
Sprinkle generously icing sugar on the tartlet pans and place the butter in the center. Sprinkle a bit more sugar.
Slice approx. 2cm/1 inch to 1 and a half-inch of endive and place on top of the butter. Place the puff pastry on top and tuck on the sides of the endives so it is covered entirely.

Bake the tartlets in the preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Turn the tartlets upside down and serve with a shallot vinaigrette and shaved parmesan.

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Vegetable stew with red quinoa and shaved truffles

This recipe is inspired from a wonderful vegetable stew I had a few weeks ago when I was invited to a lovely lunch wit Alain Ducasse. He served this as a starter and shaved a few slices of fresh truffles on top. I was in heaven. This recipe can be improvised and you can use just about any seasonal vegetable.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
5 ounces/150 g bacon/poitrine, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
100 g peeled & shelled fava beans
8 slices of savoy cabbage, sliced
250 ml/ 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
A handful of red quinoa, rinsed

Peel and cut all the vegetables into small chunks. Cut the bacon into matchsticks. Heat the olive oil in a cocotte and sauté the bacon until golden, add the onion, garlic then the rest of the vegetables for 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the vegetable or chicken stock, add the quinoa grains and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid on a low heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables and quinoa grains are tender yet slightly crunchy. Stir in the butter and serve with a few slices on shaved truffles on top (optional).

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Mothers & Daughters

girls

This is my husband’s annual blogpost, enjoy! Mimi x

My grandfather was an austere man who earned his PhD in economics in Germany, dragged my German grandmother kicking and screaming back to Iceland and started a family. Later he served as Iceland’s ambassador to the Soviet Union and finally retired back in Reykjavík where he presided over a very formal household. He wore a suit every day and enjoyed a three-course lunch prepared by my grandmother. In the evenings he swapped the suit jacket for a cardigan but kept the tie and had a more relaxed supper in his office, assortments of breads and condiments, usually washed down with a cocktail. He was always served first, when he spoke others listened. As a child I had lunch with my grandparents three times a week and before I could sit down to face my grandfather, my grandmother made me wash my face and hands and combed my hair. When I had friends with me she did the same to them. One of them had golden, wavy hair, he was my grandmother’s favorite. Now he is bald. Such is life. In the evenings, when they were having their supper in the “office” my grandmother liked to talk. She really loved to talk. But when my grandfather had enough he simply said, “Lottí mín, that’s enough”. She didn’t mind, by all accounts they had a very good marriage, based not on equality but mutual respect for each other and each other’s domains. My grandfather never questioned my grandmothers running of the house, the first time he entered the kitchen was when my grandmother was in hospital. That’s the same day he found out washing dirty plates works better with hot water than cold. He was an economist not a physicist.

spinachballs&walnutcake

dancing

spinachballs&quails

This is the world my father grew up in and after law school, after finding a girl to marry he too took his seat at the head of the table. My mother, having finished university herself had other ideas. My father kept his seat but the privileges were gone. As a modern man he accepted that, if somewhat reluctantly. At Christmas he’d sit down and open a bottle of red wine (probably Chateauneuf du Pape – strangely the only red wine I heard anyone speak of in Iceland in my youth) only to be called back into the kitchen to help with the ptarmigan sauce. He usually returned slightly pissed off, but he understood. The days of his father were gone. My parents both worked hard and often my father came home with a hopeful look on his face and inquired what was for dinner. “Nothing” was sometimes the answer, if my mother had a big lunch at work. I would be the smug kid sitting behind her, scoffing down sausages and Heinz spaghetti with tomato sauce she had prepared just for me.

I understood then and I understand even better now my father’s frustration at the changing of the ways. His childhood hadn’t prepared him for it, nobody had taught him how to be anything than the head of his future household. I’d say he coped more or less pretty well. More or less. As for me I’ve never had any excuses to treat women as anything other than equals and I haven’t, at least not in any meaningful way. Jerk as I may be that’s one area where I got it right. I thank my parents for that, both of them.

vegetablesinabox

plum&mia

quail

In my early twenties I had the theatre experience of my life. Two plays by Anton Chekhov, one after the other in a double feature extravaganza. I went alone, can’t remember why. The room was small and the stage split the audience in two, stretched across the room. The cast sat on stage the entire evening, dressed in white linens, sipping tea and complaining, I loved it. This was at the Reykjavík city theatre, an uncharming, modern (not anymore) building connected to a shopping mall. At the interval I had a meal by myself at Hard Rock Café in the mall. It felt all wrong, I wanted to be in white linens, complaining, not sipping a chocolate milk shake with a burger. I had always loved dinner parties, always loved restaurants. That was the evening that made me understand how much I love the table.

quails&balls

cooking

daffodils2

My grandfather ruled the table. My mother’s quest for independence and equal rights made us take a break from it, briefly. Perhaps that was necessary. Now we are back at the table but this time there is no boss.
Every night we come together as a family and have a big meal. The food is always great, the atmosphere often. It’s where we talk to our children, plan the days ahead. Where I try, not always successfully to teach them some manners (Gaia, when you learn to read and see this I want you to know that I am talking about you!).

My wife is an astonishing cook. That’s why she cooks and I clean. But that was last years topic.
Last year Mimi asked me to cook for the blog. This year I offered. I figured she could use a hand. We had no plans, it would probably be Italian since that’s what I always cook. I chose two dishes that I love, one from my favorite restaurant in Iceland, one from last year when Mimi was in the clinic with Audrey and I was feeding the family. I don’t bake. I like to say that I prefer savory things but lack of talent comes into it too. On my own I would resort to cheeses, some biscotti with sweet wine. But my wife came to the rescue with a “smashing” (she talks like that) walnut cake, aimed straight at my heart.

I used to work in advertising. I know how to stage things. I got tired of it. Casting a girl for a cornflakes ad, finding her a husband, getting them kids. Shooting them having a “moment” when everybody just wants to get paid and go home.
I love to improvise, working without a script. The food is on the table, the “cast” is there, unpaid and badly behaved. Something will always catch my attention, an onion, a puppy, a nicely lit room. This time my lens turned towards my wife and girls, they were just too adorable, especially when they were ignoring my commands. I think the images speak for themselves.

Mothers and daughters.

quails&dogs

mimikitchen

daffodils

spinachballs

My favorite restaurant in Iceland was called La Primavera. Outside Italy and possibly New York, the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I went there a lot. A lot. The owner/chef, Leifur Kolbeinsson has moved on and opened a new restaurant in Reykjavík concert hall where he still cooks amazing food. These balls are from the La Primavera cookbook that I used to own. I hadn’t made them in a while and called Leifur this week to brush up on the recipe. He says hi! (As I was making them Mimi insisted I use more spinach than I intended, otherwise they would be too “bready”. She was right, made this way they are delicious.)

Spinach & gorgonzola balls
(for 8 balls)

750 g/ 1 & 2/3 pounds frozen spinach (about 1 pack)
2 small slices of stale bread
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon plain flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 teaspoons gorgonzola cheese
Parmesan cheese, grated/to serve
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the butter sage sauce
A large handful of sage leaves
80 g unsalted butter
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Steam the spinach until soft and drain. Squeeze out the excess water (very important otherwise the balls will be watery), and chop as finely as possible. Place 2 small slices of stale bread in the food processor and pulse until you get fine breadcrumbs. In a large bowl (or you can mix everything in the food processor, just pulse lightly) combine spinach, breadcrumbs, milk, nutmeg, flour, salt & pepper and mix until well blended. Roll out approximately 8 walnut-sized balls. While shaping the balls, insert a small teaspoon of gorgonzola inside and reshape.

Heat a large saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook the spinach balls for 8 minutes and drain.

While the spinach balls are cooking, prepare the sage butter sauce.

In a large pan, melt the butter on a medium heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, wat until it turns light golden brown, then lower the heat and add the sage leaves. Season with salt & pepper, and shake the pan for about 30 seconds.

Drizzle the sage butter sauce on top of the spinach ball. Grate parmesan on top before serving.

quails

Last May, when Mimi was in the clinic with Audrey I felt compelled to keep up her cooking and tried my best to ease the pain of “mommy” not being there. These quails were a hit and I’ve made a version of them a few times since. I love sage and I love quails and the original recipe came from my googling around the internet finding a way to cook them together.

Quails with white wine & herbs
(serves 4-6)

8 quails
8 slices pancetta
4 cloves of garlic, halved
8 sage leaves
A few sprigs of rosemary
240 ml/ 1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Season the quails inside and out. Stuff the quails with pancetta/sage/half garlic clove/sage leaves. Season with salt & pepper.
In a large dutch-iron pot, melt the butter & olive oil on a medium heat. Brown the quails on all sides until golden. Add the sprigs of rosemary, pour the wine and reduce to 3/4. Cover the pan, lower the heat and continue to cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the quails are cooked through and tender.

walnutcake

Gâteau aux noix/ Walnut cake

150 g/ 1 cup walnuts, chopped finely + at least 5 walnuts halves for decorating the cake (you’ll need a dash of icing sugar & honey)
3 tablespoons dark rum
80 g/ 1/3 cup unsalted butter
130 g/ 2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
40 g/ 1/3 cup plain flour, sifted
30 g/ 1/4 cup cornstarch (maïzana)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of fine salt

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F

Chop walnuts finely – you can also place walnuts in a food processor and pulse until you get coarse crumbs. In a large bowl, combine sugar, walnuts, and mix well. Add the butter, honey, eggs and rum. Add a pinch of salt and vanilla extract.
In another bowl, combine sifted flour, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Mix well.
Fold in dry ingredients into walnut mixture. Line your baking mould with butter and pour the batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes (you can test-knife and check – if it comes out clean it’s ready). Sprinkle a dash of icing/confectioner’s sugar in a frying pan and sauté the walnuts on a medium to low heat for a few seconds until slightly golden. Spread with a little honey and place on cake (see photos).
Serve with whipped cream (optional).

My funny valentine & the meaning of life

stestephe

The name on the label

Last year, as some of you may remember, my husband and I had a rocky but ultimately quite a perfect Valentine’s day. So this year I wanted another serving, more of the same, roses, perfume, oysters & wine. Inspired by “amour” I decided that the theme of my next post would be an amazing Valentine’s day menu paired with the most suitable wine of all, one with a heart on the bottle – Calon Ségur. I’ve told this story before but let me repeat it. Once upon a time a marquis, dubbed “prince of the vines” due to his extensive and numerous vineyards, declared that while he owned the most prestigious properties in France, his heart would always remain in Calon (St. Estèphe). So they put a heart on the bottle and it has remained so ever since. Now anyone who appreciates good wine will enjoy a bottle of Calon Ségur on any day of the year but it is never more appropriate than on special occasions or, in this case, on lover’s day. You can of course get a bottle in many wine stores but when you live 10 minutes away, going straight to the Château is just a little more fun. St Estèphe is my favorite wine-making village in Médoc, a tiny place with a huge reputation. A wine lover making a pilgrimage to St Estèphe might at first be slightly disappointed, thoughts of “Is this it?” might enter his head. A beautiful church, a wine store that is often closed, a great butcher hidden in a corner and a café that is sometimes open. But that’s what I love about it, the smallness, the quiet, it’s got that spaghetti Western feel and sometimes I half-expect Clint Eastwood to come blazing out of the church … to get some steak at the butchers. St Estèphe also has a curious local that used to be a bistrot and, in my opinion, should be again. I happen to have my hands full these days, in another equally charming but less famous village, but I hereby dare any of you to pack your bags and bring the place to life.

When we first moved to Médoc over 4 years ago we had no idea what to expect and I, still clinging to my city roots, kept stating that this was only an experiment. We used to say that whatever would come of it at least we’d be familiar with a part of France where some of the most amazing wines in the world are made. After the move when our friends and family asked us (often doubtingly) about our reasons my husband answered like this:
“One day we’ll be sitting in a restaurant in New York looking at the wine list and a smug sommelier will home in on us and recommend a wine from France. Then he will proceed to educate us on Bordeaux wines and, if he’s knowledgeable, talk about the particular village he’s suggesting. We will listen attentively, even smiling and at the end of the speech we’ll say “We’ll take that one”. And while we drink it we will know what it feels like to stand on a sunny day in front of the little church, we will know that down the hill from the village is the Gironde estuary where, mostly old men have fishing cabins and where, late in summer, there are endless stretches of colorful flowers. We will know what it feels like to walk amongst the vines at Calon Ségur, or cycle a bit further north where one of Châteaux has the most amazing old greenhouse in ruins.”

thecloset

groundsatcalonsegur

thelunch

Nobody ever thought that was a very good answer but I guess it’s all about new experiences and simply knowing things. Knowing where things come from, where they are made and what the people making them are like.

In any case it’s a romantic idea and romance was on my mind in the days before Valentine’s day. Until I realized that we had other plans. Accidentally, without thinking of dates, we had scheduled a week-end with a lovely Norwegian/English couple, Anne & Tim who will be helping out with the workshops and the seasonal restaurant. Valentine’s day is not really made for 4 people who don’t know each other. (On this note I would like to say to all of you who have sent me letters regarding help for the seasonal restaurant that I continue to read them all as they come and no decisions have been made at all. I’m sorry it’s taking so long and I would have loved to answer you all quickly, but the sheer volume is staggering and our plans for the summer are still a bit unclear. But I promise I will answer you all and, if you are still interested, there will be an adventure in it for some of you).

Even if there was no romantic dinner, my husband still brought me red roses, he got the oysters and eventually there was candlelight for the whole family. But the best part of the day and the most unexpected came in the early afternoon when we were getting ready for a snack-lunch. In the beginning of the year two good fellows from Latresne brought us a piece of furniture that a friend had spotted at their antiques store. It’s an old counter from a textile store that I am sure will prove useful somewhere, I just don’t know where yet. When we were unloading the counter we spotted a huge closet in the lorry, something they had just picked up from it’s previous owner who wanted to sell it. It’s a gigantic piece of furniture, over 3 meters long. We simply fell for it and bought it on the spot. Some pieces needed fixing so we couldn’t have it immediately (difficult for the impatient me) but they promised to bring it soon. And they did – on Valentine’s day just as we were sitting down to lunch. My husband had two choices. Help them carry in the object and have cold lunch or invite them to join us and leave the carrying for later. It was an easy choice. So this unorthodox Valentine’s day was made even more so with the whole family, Anne and Tim plus the antiques dealers sitting together for a first meal at a table in one of the rooms we are preparing for my cooking workshops. And then my husband started photographing it all (this is now officially the longest photo caption in the world – but at least you get the picture).

My romantic Valentine’s day dinner was supposed to be very special and one of the things I wanted to make were cocoa crunch meringue sandwiches from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, ‘Baking Chez Moi’. My editor, Rica, sent me a copy of her book before Christmas and I have loved everything I have made from it. The idea of these little bijoux seemed so inviting and though I missed my chance to serve them on Valentine’s day the stubborn me still wanted to finish the menu. So on Sunday the 15th of February I started whipping up meringues in my kitchen, making a delicious chocolate filling and assembling them with the meticulousness of a master jeweller. My main thought, “I can’t let Dorie down – they have to be beautiful.” And they were, and oh so yummie delicious. Merci mille fois Dorie.

But my menu wasn’t finished yet, I had served the starter, a cauliflower salad, to the whole gang on the 14th, I had made the dessert but what about my main? Well I took care of it the next day, on Monday the 16th, the finest beef, rolled in pancakes and topped with a little rose made out of paprikas.

Sometimes you just have to finish the meal you started, even if it takes three days.

calonwalk

viewofstestephe

tournedosalarusse2

Me and Mr. Roberts.

Some weeks ago I got the news from my publishers at Random House/Clarkson Potter that the popular website, food52.com, had selected my cookbook, A Kitchen in France, as one of the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year. And as such it would be competing for the “Piglet” award, an entertaining tournament of cookbooks where books are pitted against each other in several rounds of play-offs until there is only one book left, the winner. There are several judges, one for each “fight” so the judges only gets one chance to “shine”. Should the book go on to the next round it is judged by another person. I was happy about this news but busy as we are I completely forgot about this upcoming tournament until my husband reminded me early last week. “I don’t think you’ll make it to the next round” he said. Then he explained what he was talking about. Apparently my book had been pitted against a book called Fancy desserts, written by the award-winning pastry chef of Del Posto restaurant in New York (I’ve been there twice – it’s great). My husband had done some research and said it seemed that the other book was very much a rock’n roll kind of book with clever, even funny writing and some very impressive recipes. So why wouldn’t my book stand a chance against that, I’m pretty happy about it, the recipes are good, tried and tested, I might not be an award-winning chef but surely I had a chance? My husband didn’t seem to think so, this book was in his opinion tailor-made for the judge in question, a certain Adam Roberts who has a food blog of his own, where clever & funny writing (if not quite rock’n roll) takes center stage and trumps aesthetics every time. Still, even if all was lost (which was fine with me – I’m not that competitive when it comes to cookbook tournaments) I was looking forward to a well written review, criticism or praise of one’s work can be helpful or at least interesting.

Well, I didn’t quite get my review, and Oddur was right, I did lose, badly. Instead of a well written, thoughtful review Mr. Roberts chose to have a bit of fun (as he has every right to) and do a little comic strip with images from the books, complete with blurbs of his “writing”. Not a bad idea although a slightly cheap&easy way to be funny. Anyone can be made to look foolish in a comic strip like that, imagine a photograph with Dalai Lama and Barack Obama. Above Dalai Lama is a blurb saying “I want to talk about world peace and human rights”. Above Obama’s head is a blurb saying “I want a burger”. I think you get the picture – simple little tricks often work best … and anyone can do it. My book apparently “rubs” Mr. Roberts the wrong way and he obsesses about what he conceives to be the main theme of the book, namely to illustrate that my life is better than anyone else’s. He does add, as an afterthought that “the food did look pretty fabulous”. In my mind food is the most important aspect of a cookbook, the recipes the very purpose of it (which is why a very large majority of the photographs in the book are food pictures). If the recipes work, if the food is fabulous the book is good. And I stand wholeheartedly behind my recipes, they are tried, tested and I love them all. Since the publication of A Kitchen in France we’ve had amazing reviews and incredible press and I couldn’t be more proud or thankful for each and every kind word that anyone has said or written about my book. I am even thankful for Mr. Roberts saying that the food looks fabulous. And I did find his “review” a little funny. A little. But there is another part of me that can’t help feeling that his approach is a bit shallow (which is fine since this is all in good fun and it’s good not to take things seriously, especially not cookbooks) but also a tad, dare I say it … sexist. Women don’t want to be judged on their looks, and neither do cookbooks. I said in my latest post that I was old-fashioned – just not that old-fashioned. If I was writing a review of Mr. Robert’s blog I don’t think he would take kindly to me mostly ignoring his writing, his recipes and focusing on his looks, his way of dressing, his photography or the design of his blog. Do we judge a theater performance by the décor of the room or the comfort of the seats? They can be important factors but never more so than the play itself. Mr. Roberts does go on to test two recipes from my book, one he likes the other less so. It’s worth mentioning that he makes a real mess of the second one, a classic couscous that’s truly good, not least if you actually follow the instructions in the book.

All this said, the review neither spoilt my mood or my morning, I simply shrugged my shoulders and thought to myself, in American style, “Whatever”. I may even have laughed a little. I’m still interested in the tournament and am hoping to see a few books that I like do well. I’m rooting for Dorie and Buvette (two spectacular cookbooks) and not offended at all, being a part of this selection has been an enjoyable if bizarre experience. Food52 – I’m still flattered.

I am a big believer in the “don’t explain, don’t complain philosophy” so I had absolutely no intention of writing about this. I want this blog to be light and airy, like a well made soufflé, yet with enough substance to brighten my readers’ day and “make them better, happier cooks”. But serious and cynical has never really been on the menu. Then add the fact that I’m married to an Icelandic man and it seems to me that a 1000 years later the old Viking philosophy of “if they chop off one of my legs I’ll stand on the other” is still very much alive in Iceland – I’ve never met a nation less prone to complaining. That sort of thinking has rubbed off on me.

opening

chateaucalonsegur

vineyardscalon

Then Monday morning happened. Thanks to modern technology I can see where the traffic to my blog is coming from. On Monday a small number of people seemed to be streaming from a blog called www.thetipsybaker.com From time to time, and when I have time I like to see why they are coming, what or who has sent readers my way. This time, the blogger seemed to be defending me from Adam Roberts’s review, but only half-defending me.
“Maybe she’s oblivious” was the title”. And the answer is I’m not. I am proud to promote France, family life, thoughtful seasonal cooking, living life at a slower pace, spending time with our children. I am happy to promote the idea of carefully prepared meals, shared with friends and family as opposed to rushed meals in front of a computer screen. And my husband takes nice pictures, god bless him. But none of that means that I believe my life is better than anyone else’s, in fact I am certain it’s not. Who says a family in the countryside is happier than two married guys, living together in a city, perhaps with children or pets, sharing their lives and maybe even cooking fabulous meals. I don’t think there is a rule that you need children to be happy, although having had them I couldn’t imagine life without them. I don’t think you need to live in France, drink wine, eat meat to be happy. An old man living with his cat, eating sardines every day, looking out his window could be happy … or miserable, depending on the man and the circumstances. Happiness, quality of life cannot be the packaging of someone’s life – I think none of us really have the recipe for happiness but we know many of the ingredients and I’m trying to use them as well as I can.
And glamour isn’t happiness either. Talking again about Mr. Roberts (now it’s me who’s being obsessive) he has a partner who is also the director of a very good, critically acclaimed movie. And nothing is more glamorous than the movies. So are Mr. Roberts and his partner happier, is their life better than that of some other couple whose only brush with Hollywood is watching movies together in bed?

I mentioned earlier that I’m not big on complaining, I like to accentuate the positive, just being alive is something to be thankful for, and being alive with great food … But I’m happy to dispel the rumours that I’m wealthy. I’m not, money has never been my target. If it was I would have become a banker or even quicker, married one. We do have a beautiful old house but for anyone who thinks that is prove of wealth I urge them to check out real estate prices in Médoc as opposed to say, Brooklyn? And while I’m in confessional mood, and considering I’m breaking my cardinal rule of speaking out against criticism on the internet (which is usually a terrible idea) I might as well address another lingering issue. It’s the “curious infatuation with the low table”. I’ve been lucky enough since starting this blog and the other activities it has spurned to have mostly intelligent, thoughtful, engaging comments and questions. But every now and then someone, somewhere, questions my choice of working tables. It seems they are just too low. But here’s the thing. They are my tables, that I actually use. And I’m tall. We filmed two seasons for Canal+ and a number of people commented on the tables. My tables. So they brought in a new table for the third season. It was higher, more comfortable perhaps. But it wasn’t real. When I cook at home, when we make blog posts, we use the things that are already there. Strange as it is sometimes reality looks weird or fake and sometimes when things are faked to look real, they feel all wrong. So I say, let’s keep it real – always, even when reality looks strange.

crunchmeringues2

doorknobs

theguys

cafe

louiseheart

Too cut it short I am not oblivious to the fact that certain aspects of my life and work might encourage irritation in some people, and with increased exposure comes increased responsibility to be … less irritating. That is absolutely fine with me, I have no problem with that, by putting myself out there, with my blog, my book I’m not expecting unquestioned approval but rather a healthy debate on cooking and life choices. But I am who I am, we live how we live, for better or for worse and I harbor no illusions that my life is extra special or better than that of most other people. I have lived in a city, in a small apartment which gradually got filled with kids and dogs and I was happy there too, most of the time anyway. Mr. Roberts, life is not a competition and I have no way of knowing if mine is better than yours but I’m pretty sure my food is :)
p.s. I haven’t really had the time to properly check out Mr. Roberts’s blog but I intend to … with an open mind. And while I’m still on the subject of Mr. Roberts I want to add that his “panel” looks simply adorable, what a collection of handsome men – guys I want YOUR life. We are opening a little seasonal restaurant here in Médoc this summer and I’d love to invite you for a feast. You might not come, but if you guys do, I promise to dazzle you – like they say in the movies, I’ll show you how it’s done!

cauliflowersalad

Cauliflower and egg salad

1 head of cauliflower, separated into florets
3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped finely
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 tablespoon plain flour
Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
A few sprigs of parsley, leaves picked and chopped finely
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & black pepper
8 slices of smoked duck magret (you can replace this by slices of fried pancetta or bacon)

For the lemon vinaigrette:
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 crushed garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard or whole-grain mustard
A pinch of salt & black pepper

Combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Set aside.

Place the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of a saucepan. Cover with at least an inch or two of cold water and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt (a little trick to make eggs easier to peel). Heat the pot on high heat and bring the water to a full boil. Turn off the heat, cover and leave the eggs in the water for 12 minutes (add 5 to 7 minutes longer for larger eggs). Drain the saucepan and run cold water over the eggs. Peel the eggs and chop them finely. Set aside.

Put the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter starts foaming. At this point cook the cauliflower and sprinkle the flour on top. When the cauliflower starts to be slightly golden, about a minute, set aside.

Place the cauliflower on a serving dish. Scatter the chopped eggs on top, sprinkle the parsley leaves. Place the duck magret on top, and season with the vinaigrette and a dash of salt & pepper. Grate the lemon zest all over.

tournedosalarusse

Tournedos à la Russe (Tournedos Russian style)

4 tournedos/tenderloin beef fillets
4 pancakes
3 red peppers/ poivrons rouges, deseeded and cut into thin slices
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 & 1/2 glass of red wine
80ml/ 1/3 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the crêpes/pancakes: (serves 4, about 20 crêpes)

125g/1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
60g/1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 pinch of fine sea salt
350 ml/1 & 1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking

Mix the crêpe batter. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and make a well in the center. Add the eggs one by one to the well, whisking them into the dry ingredients. Whisk in the milk, followed by the melted butter. The batter should be smooth, without any lumps. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 2 hours or, preferably, overnight in the refrigerator (remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking).

Cook the crêpes. Heat a lightly buttered crêpe pan or small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan, rotating the pan so it spreads evenly, and cook until just set and lightly browned, about 45 seconds. Flip and cook on the other side until lightly golden, about 5 seconds. Transfer the crêpe to a plate and cook the remaining batter, stacking the crêpes as you make them.

Deseed the red peppers and slice them into thin strips. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the red peppers strips until cooked and soft, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the tournedos/tenderloin and fry for about a minute or 2 on each side, or a few minutes more if you refer medium or until cooked to your liking. Season with salt & pepper. Set aside & keep warm.

Keep the juices in the pan, add the red wine and the beef stock. Reduce to half and season with salt & pepper, add the nutmeg. Add a tablespoon of butter, stir until melted and when the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes, set aside.

Wrap a pancake around each tournedos fillet. Place the red pepper strips on top, creating a small rose figure. Drizzle with red wine sauce.

crunchmeringues

Cocoa Crunch Meringue Sandwiches, recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Baking Chez Moi’

For the meringues

1/4 cup/ 30 g confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup/ 30 grams almonds or walnuts, lightly toasted, cooled and very finely chopped

For the filling

2 ounces /57 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup/ 60 ml heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

These fall somewhere between traditional meringues and dacquoise, the French meringue made with nut flour. Instead of nut flour, I opt for chopped toasted nuts and end up with a cocoa meringue that’s airy (as it should be) and crunchy (as I always want it to be). While you can certainly make these in the classic kiss shape so popular for meringues, I prefer to pipe the batter into dainty disks and then sandwich them together with a thick layer of creamy dark chocolate ganache. Done this way, the sandwiches might remind you of another member of the meringue family: macarons. If you’re having a party, you can double (or even triple) this recipe.
To make the meringues: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Trace sixteen 2-inch circles on a piece of parchment paper, flip the paper over and use it to line a baking sheet. It will be your template for piping meringues. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper.
Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whis attachment, or into a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. Add the salt and beat the whites on medium speed until they start to turn opaque. Still beating, gradually add the sugar, then turn up the mixer speed to medium high and beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.

Add the cocoa mixture to the meringue and, with a flexible spatula, start to fold the cocoa mixture into the meringue. When you’ve got half of the mixture in, add the nuts and continue to fold until everything is well incorporated. Take a peek at what’s happening at the bottom of the bowl; if something’s lurking there, fold it in.
Spoon half of the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a ½ – inch tip (or use a zipper-lock bag ; seal it and then cut a ½ inch-wide opening from one of the corners) and pipe out circles onto the template. Start in the middle of a circle and work your way out in a spiral. Alternatively, you can spoon out mounds of meringue.
Bake for 90 minutes without opening the oven door. Turn off the oven and let the meringues stay for another hour with the door closed.
Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack. When you’re ready to make the sandwiches, peel the paper away from the meringues.

To make the filling:
Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream and butter to a boil in a microwave oven or on the stovetop. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and wait for 30 seconds, then, using a whisk, begin stirring the ingredients together, starting at the center of the bowl. Stir in gradually widening concentric circles until you have a dark, smooth, glossy ganache. Set the ganache aside to firm at room temperature – a process that could take 1 hour or more – or quick-chill it: Put the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and water and stir the ganache until it firms enough to spread or pipe, 5 to 10 minutes. (You can also refrigerate the ganache for about 15 minutes ; just make sure you check on it so it doesn’t get too firm.)
To assemble the sandwiches: Fit a small pastry bag with an open or closed star tip (or use a snipped zipper-lock bag) and fill it with the ganache. Turn half of the meringues bottom side up and pipe a rosette or spiral of ganache on each. Top each with another meringue, bottom side down, and twist until the ganache spread and glues the sandwich together. (You can also spoon the ganache onto the meringues.) Refrigerate until firm.

mimifin

The Granny Lunch

jambonendive

I have been thinking that two of my favorite things, when it comes to cooking, are old-fashioned “grandmother’s cooking” and, of course, seasonal cooking. The former is often categorised (sometimes in a deprecating manner) as “comfort food”, meaning not serious food, something warm, tasty, satisfying but ultimately not exciting, modern or inventive. Then we have my other favorite, the much-loved, very fashionable, seasonal cooking or even better, local, seasonal cooking. Seasonal cooking can be of any variety, it can range from just cooking old family recipes with the vegetables from the garden behind the house to the avant-garde lab cooking of hyped up restaurants. But taking a closer look, “granny cooking” was always seasonal and usually local too. The vegetables in the stew never came from South Africa or New Zealand (unless that’s where the granny lived), they came from the garden or the market. I suppose the moral of the story is that when we look to the future we should always keep one eye on the past, when it comes to most matters granny knew best.

mimi&gaia

mimilunch2

gaiasquiffy

Inspired by these two muses of mine I have been cooking a lot of seasonal, old-fashioned food lately. And at the moment nothing is more in season than the most beautiful of greens, the endive (or the chicory as it is known to many). In France everybody’s grandmother used to make “endives au jambon” since anyone can remember, it’s a dish so unoriginal that few restaurants would dare serve it, which makes it rare, hard to find and thus priceless. Of course you can make a real mess of “endives au jambon“, you need good quality, crunchy, endive (chicory). And you need really, really good ham. Which brings me to a recent discovery. In our village there is a hairdresser and a shop that is also a bar. In the morning you can find camouflage wearing hunters drinking beer or stronger at the bar and in the evenings you can find the same camouflage wearing hunters drinking beer but usually stronger at the bar. The little store has a bit of everything, mostly canned products and such but they have wonderful eggs and the most amazing cooked ham that I’m in love with. The ham comes from a local producer by the way. When you bring home a box filled with endives and ham it just seems so obvious to wrap one around the other and cover them with a blanket of béchamel and grated cheese. I’ve been making it a lot this month and I will continue for a while until my appetite tells me to take a pause and have some more … next year.

onions

mimilunch

shadows

Our future vegetable garden.

gaia&dick

Dick, our latest addition.

Channeling a grandmother, serving up old-fashioned food on a daily basis, is never more appropriate than when you have a full house of hungry men, working hard in all conditions, trying their best to meet our deadlines, fighting alongside us in this wrestle with a house. We have Bruno, the electrician, who works quietly and thoroughly with his two apprentices who are also his children. Then there is Monsieur Bianco, the ever smiling plumber of Italian heritage who also has a son of an apprentice and a Rolodex of 1.100 clients according to his own account (which makes us clients no 1.101). I believe his bragging because his phone never stops ringing and I have observed that his work involves just as much networking on the mobile as it does fixing pipes. Yet somehow he gets things done beautifully which is all that matters. Last but not least we have Sasha and Alexei, our Russian masters of “pierre” who are as solid as the stones they carve. Recently we had a quick, working lunch with the Russians and our third guest was Monsieur Teyssier who despite appearances seems to own half the village and properties in St Yzans. He has recently sold one of his houses to our friends Matt and Yolanda so now he owns just under half the village. Gaia, my 3-year-old, was sick that day so she joined us and completing the guest list was Audrey who is never far from my side. Monsieur Teyssier is an encyclopaedia of all St Yzans but I always manage to offend him (though not seriously) by asking him about events that occurred long before he was born “But how old do you think I am Madam?” he always says with a wry smile.

vegetablegarden2

sasha

gardening

Planning to have a chicken coop.

Planning to have a chicken coop.

At the end of the meal Monsieur Teyssier told me he had been touched by my choice of dishes, a familiar vegetable soup, a semolina cake and most of all the endives au jambon.
“How did you know this was the food I liked” he asked?
I though about it for a while and then said:

“I guess I’m old-fashioned”.

soup

Soupe du potager/ Farmer’s soup

A perfect country soup, rich in flavors and texture.

450 g/1 pound potatoes, diced into small cubes
2 carrots, finely diced
1 leek, sliced finely
1 celery, sliced finely
1 onion, sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, sliced finely
300 ml/1 1 1/4 cup milk
80 ml/1/3 cup cream (crème entière liquide)
300 ml/ 1 1 1/4 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons olive oil
A few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add all the vegetables, cook for a few minutes then pour the chicken stock. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Scoop out half of the vegetables, and, using a vegetable masher, mash the vegetables in the soup. Return the reserved vegetables, add the milk and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Serve with a drizzle of cream, scatter the parsley and a dash of piment d’Espelette. Serve with grilled country bread.

endivejambon

Endives au jambon/ Chicory ham rolls

I can’t get enough of this dish, it’s perhaps one of the most cooked meals in my house these days. It’s healthy, tasty and so comforting. The mustard gives an extra punch to the endives and ham. Make sure to drain the endives properly as they retain a lot of water. And don’t forget to season lightly – the mustard is already doing a good job.

6 endives
6 slices of ham, approximately 360 g/ 12-13 ounces
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
100 g/ 1 cup Gruyère cheese (or Emmenthal), grated
Salt & pepper

Steam the endives for 15 minutes. Drain the endives head down – they retain a lot of water so it is important to drain as much as possible. (I use paper towels and gently squeeze excess water just to be sure). Spread a light layer of mustard on the endives, then roll them with the ham. Repeat with each endives. Season lightly with salt & pepper.

Place the prepared endives in a baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce, sprinkle the grated gruyère cheese on top.

Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

For the bechamel sauce

40 g/ 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
40 g/1/3 cup plain flour
500 ml/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Pour the milk and whisk continuously until smooth. When the mixture starts to boil, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until thick and creamy. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

semoulecake

Gâteau de semoule aux raisins/ Semolina & raisin cake

This cake sends me right back to cozy afternoons chatting with my grandmother – she would tell me stories of our family, we would play my favorite card game called ‘le jeu des 7 familles’. This gâteau de semoule is rich, chewy, with a hint of rum flavor, it’s simply delightful, especially drowned in a home-made crème Anglaise (custard cream).

120 g/ 2/3 cup semoule de blé extra-fine (semolina fine or extra-fine)
90 g/ 8 tablespoons sugar
2 tbsp rum
600ml/ 2 & 1/2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons dried dark raisins
Butter, for the cake mould

Preheat the oven to 160°C/ 320°F

In a large saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla beans and sugar on a medium heat. When the milk starts to simmer, pour the semolina slowly and stir. Add the rum and the raisins. Take off the heat.

Butter a pan ( I chose a bundt pan), pour the semolina mixture and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake on a serving plate.

For the crème Anglaise

300 ml/ 1 & 1/4 cup milk
50 g/ 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
3 egg yolks

In a saucepan, heat the milk, vanilla beans and sugar until it reaches a soft boil.
In the meantime, whisk 3 egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the milk in the egg yolk bowl, whisking continuously to avoid curdling. Pour the mixture back in the saucepan, set the heat to low and whisk until the sauce thickens to a custard cream.

Geography of the house

thelady

Early last week, as the festivities were slowly winding down, as we had just said goodbye to the big kids who returned to their school in Iceland, France was shaken by terror. I was working on a long overdue new blog post that I planned to publish later in the day when news of the horrible events in Paris reached us. I was deeply saddened by what was happening in Paris and it made me worry about what the future holds, not just for France but for the entire world. I couldn’t bring myself to continue working on the blog post, when people are getting killed, when a whole nation is grieving, who cares about recipes for carrot soup or a family’s move to a new house?
A few days later my husband brought up the post that hadn’t been published and reminded me of a story I had read in Adam Gopnik’s “The Table Comes First”. It’s about a young man waiting to be executed by the Nazis, writing a final letter to his parents discussing some of his favorite meals and future meals they will have without him. In the past week I’ve come to realize that simple things like sharing a table at dinner with the whole family are never more important than in times of turmoil. The comfort of good food, the healing power of a shared moment is never more needed than on a cold January night when bad news reaches your door.
So we continue to lead our lives, cook, eat, laugh and cry together and hope that by raising our children to the best of our abilities will help create a better world.

Here is a story of one family’s move to a new house on Christmas eve and a few recipes to go with it.

mimiinthekitchen

staircase

ditch

Midnight in St Yzans

As many of you know 2014 saw us finding and ultimately buying a big old house in a little village just by the Gironde estuary. By autumn renovations had begun in earnest and in October we set ourselves the target that come hell or high water we’d at least be having Christmas dinner in the new house though we all hoped we could move in sooner. The guys working in the house were not as optimistic. The smirked and shrugged their shoulders (the French/Russian version of “whatever”). It was all very cute, they thought, but no way was anyone going to live in the house by Christmas. What they didn’t account for though was my unrealistic optimism (that’s often gotten me in trouble) and my husband’s Icelandic bloody mindedness. I often say that Oddur and I are two heads on the same dragon and this Christmas the dragon was headed for St Yzans. By early December the mother in me started getting protective of the children’s Christmas and I insisted getting a Christmas tree for our old house, to enjoy through December and, also … just in case. By mid-December, to the irritation of my husband I changed my tune from “when” to “if we have Christmas in St Yzans” and though he tried every trick in the book, including drafting the gardeners to assist with the painting it seemed that Christmas would not be held in the new house after all. By lunchtime, still in the old place I started taking out my cutting boards, sharpening the knifes, going over recipes in my head. One more big feast, prepared in my old “Kitchen in France”. But that wasn’t to be either, Oddur returned from St Yzans, more determined than ever with that crazy look in his eyes and pleaded for my cooperation. And how can you say no to an exciting adventure on Christmas eve? By late afternoon he dropped me and the little girls off in my new kitchen, stacked with beautiful ingredients like quail, pigeon and duck, bottles of Champagne lined up for days of festivities, vegetables piled like old still life paintings. He promised to be back by seven, he was not. At 9 o’clock they arrived, the rest of the family, seven dogs, a car so full that the windows were popping out. Oddur’s suit squashed against my Wellington boots and the rest of the Christmas presents. Everything that was necessary was brought along, everything that was not was left behind. Interestingly my high heels and stockings were deemed necessary, my toothbrush was not.
By 9.30 we were having Champagne and foie gras in the kitchen, still in our “civil clothes”, by 10.30 the Christmas tree was being decorated and at midnight we had the most beautiful Christmas lunch I’ve ever had in my new, oh so inspiring kitchen in St Yzans. Opening presents under the huge, rather dimly lit tree followed, by 3 everyone was in bed, except my husband who was doing the dishes in the only working sink in the house … just as he had promised.

There are times when having a crazy husband isn’t so bad.

horse

familyinthekitchen

window

Return of the table & a bed of roses

Our new house has had many lives, it used to be a wine-making château and then later a hotel & restaurant. When we bought it the previous owner left us quite a bit of beautiful furniture that we’ve been cleaning and restoring but since it’s a big house we needed many more pieces. After spending a few afternoons in my new kitchen earlier this winter (before we moved in) I started thinking about a perfect table for the room. I found some photos that looked like what I wanted, a sturdy oak table with drawers for cutlery and Oddur and I searched for something similar around the local antique stores. One day he was driving past a little shop, popped in, liked what he saw and after I had approved by sms (technology can be so useful) he brought home exactly the table I wanted. Now this isn’t really that interesting, people find tables every day, but wait, there’s more. A few days after, the previous owner, Monsieur Ladra, stopped by to give us some guidance regarding the plumbing (a labyrinth comes to mind) and when he entered the kitchen his jaw dropped to the floor. “Where did you find that table he said, his voice almost shaking”. It had been in our house for over 80 years before he sold it to and antiques dealer some months before we bought the house and now the table had found its way home. It may just be a simple little coincidence but typing this gives me goosebumps. And talking of furniture it is such a pleasure to visit the past through carefully made objects. One of the rooms had an old bed and matching closet with carvings of roses, made in the 1920’s. It’s a little small for us but I just had to have that bed in our room. Taking it a part was a pleasure, the craftmanship of such high quality, the whole closet is held together by only a few screws and meticulous carpentry. On the back of the closet is a little label stating that it was custom-made for Madame Pautard (remember Plantia, the lady who dressed in black and charmed everyone with her cooking).

Good furniture, like good food is always better when it comes with a story.

cominghome

diningroom

carrots

Flavor of the month

Two days after we moved in we were joined on the 26th by Gunnhildur and Þórir and happily invaded by our dear friends, the Hraneks (Matt, Yolanda, Clara) who have just bought two houses opposite our’s. What followed was an endless succession of feasts, amazing Médoc wines, great conversation … and doing dishes in that little sink in the makeshift bathroom. (We have found a nice old porcelain sink for the kitchen but as we were preparing to install it the plumber realized that the evacuation ended not in the sewers but in our garage – “Madame we have a big problem” is the sentence I hear most often these days. New year’s eve saw us inaugurate our red dining room (you know the saying that a compromise is where two people get what neither of them wanted – well I wanted to go pinkish, my husband favored terracotta so we ended up with pure and simple red – we are both sort of happy with it though). And this is where I finally get to the point. After all this rich, delicious food, after the Hraneks had left we just needed some new spices, a whole new flavor. And that flavor turned out to be saffron. I have this habit, come early January, just because the days are getting slightly longer, because it’s a new year, to think of spring. And spring calls for something fresh, uplifting and exciting. So for a few days in early January we went mad for saffron and citrus, I might not like orange on the walls but on my plate it is always welcome. I think I’ve made that carrot soup at least 5 times this year, ginger is so healing and tasty. The chicken was originally supposed to be a fish course but poultry was easier to find and since I was using saffron for the main, why not put it into the souffé too?

mandarines

abandonedhouse

gaia

A new year calls for new flavors and new adventures and though this year started in a much sadder way than any of us could have anticipated we must be brave and hopeful.
We as a family have never experienced anything like what those who lost their loved ones in Paris are going through now but we do have a little family motto taken from the poem by W.H. Auden that lent it’s title to this post. The subject of the poem is the humblest of rooms but that ‘s not why I like it so much. The final two lines capture my heart like few other lines have and seem to me so filled with truth and meaning. I think no words are better suited for the beginning of this year.

“Face with all our courage
What is now to be”.

drawingroom

theorchard

jeanie

girls

p.s. I know that my cookbook, “A Kitchen in France” was only published in October last year (and hasn’t even been published in France yet – will be by Hachette in October 2015 this year) but I am so happy and proud to announce that I will be writing another cookbook with Clarkson Potter/ Random House to be published in the fall of 2016. Again I will have the chance to work with Oddur on the photos, with the best editor in the world, Rica Allannic and the whole dream team at Clarkson Potter, Anna, Kevin, Doris – here’s to continuing the story. This time we will focus on the new house, the restaurant, I am sure Plantia will pop up somewhere.
Regarding the workshops that I announced just before Christmas, I am astonished by the positive response and happy to report that so many of them are already full. We do still have some availability here and there though, especially in November 2015 and for the December 2015 Christmas workshop but a few places in the spring and summer months too.
And on that note I am equally overwhelmed by all of you who have written to me about helping with the seasonal restaurant and though I haven’t had time to reply to the hundreds of letters I’ve received I want you to know that I’ve read them all and will answer you in the coming weeks. There is still some uncertainty around dates, how many people we will need etc so no decisions have yet been made. I apologize for this delay, you’ll hear from me soon.
Finally I am so happy to have signed on as a regular contributor for French ELLE ‘Fiches Cuisine’/ Recipes starting February this year. It is the magazine of my childhood, my French mother read it religiously in Hong Kong and I saved all the little recipes they print on special sheets that you can tear out. To think that these will now be my recipes is a little girls dream come true.

Mimi x

carrotsoup

Carrot & ginger soup

Serves 6

900 g/ 2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 small potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 stick of fresh ginger root (about the size of a finger), peeled and grated
1 teaspoon ground turmeric/curcuma
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1.3 litres/ 5 & 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
A few sprigs of chives, chopped finely
120 ml/ 1/2 cup cream
Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onions, carrots and potatoes for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the ginger, turmeric and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the chicken or vegetable stock, stir all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. Cook for 25 minutes. Mix the soup with a stick blender and add the cream. Reheat on a low heat for a minute or two. Sprinkle chopped chives if desired.

lemonsaffronchicken

Lemon chicken with saffron sauce

(serves 4)

1 large chicken (approx 2 kg/ 4.4 pounds) , cut into pieces
475 ml/ 2 cups crème fraîche
60 g/ 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
300 g/ 2/3 pounds porcini mushrooms (or mushrooms of your choice), quartered
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons plain flour
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
240 ml/ 1 cup white wine
1 tsp saffron threads
A pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large cast iron pot. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and season with salt & pepper (once browned, take out the chicken breasts and add them to the pot halfway so they don’t overcook).

Add the sliced onion, garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Sprinkle the flour all over the ingredients, then pour the wine – leave to reduce for a few minutes on a medium heat. Add the lemon zest, saffron threads, nutmeg and lemon juice. Add the crème fraîche, lower the heat and cover.

Season accordingly with salt & pepper. Leave to cook on a low heat for 30 minutes.

Serve with steamed potatoes or wild rice.

souffle

Lemon & saffron soufflé

Serves 4

160 ml/ 2/3 cu full cream milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs, separated
A pinch of saffron threads
25 g/ 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (, plus extra for the ramekins
15 g/ 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
15 g/ 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 200°C/ 400°F

Line the soufflé ramekins with butter and sprinkle all inner sides with granulated sugar. Shake off excess sugar. Place ramekins in the refrigerator and leave to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Grate the zest of a lemon and squeeze the juice.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk and bring to a slight simmer on a medium to low heat. Add the saffron. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add the lemon juice, cornstarch and lemon zest. Pour the warm milk on the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture into the saucepan and place on a medium heat. Stir until mixture thickens slightly. Set aside.

Whisk the egg whites, adding the sugar gradually, until stiff. Fold in the egg whites to the cream mixture with a large spatula.

Pour mixture into oven-proof soufflé ramekins and bake for 6 minutes, or until well-risen and golden.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar before serving. Serve immediately.

france

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.

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