Two Sundays without you (part I)

by mimithorisson

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

Thomas Wolfe in his final letter to Maxwell Perkins

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

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

This is your world before you could live in it.

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May 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… to be continued (on Wednesday)

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Workshops 2016 – 2017

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

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

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

Mimi xx

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

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Sage fritters

Approx 20 sage leaves

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

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

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

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

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

For 4 people

150 g/ 1/3 pound x 4 cod fillets
1 kg/ 2 pounds approx. chopped large artichoke hearts
60 ml/ ¼ cup heavy cream
60 ml/ ¼ cup milk
90 g/ ¾ cup almond flour
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces/ 230 g slivered almonds, toasted
A dash of piment d’Espelette
A dash of plain flour
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of chives, finely chopped

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

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

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F

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

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

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

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Asparagus and Roquefort tart

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

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F

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

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

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Stuffed artichokes

Serves 4

4 large artichokes
120 g/1 & ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
130 g/ 1 & ½ cup grated Pecorino
2 cloves garlic, minced
80 ml/ 1 /3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
A dash of piment d’Espelette
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F

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

Trim the bottom of each artichoke and cut the top spiky tips with kitchen scissors. Separate the leaves to open up the artichokes. Place the artichoke in a large deep pan and pour water  ¾ high. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes on a medium heat. Take out the artichokes and set aside. Reserve the cooking liquid.

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

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

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Véronique’s lemon tart

For this recipe, please click on this link.

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