Saint-Estèphe is a lovely village perched on a hill just above the banks of the Gironde estuary. It’s a tiny little place with a huge reputation – a reputation for making fine wines. Saint-Estèphe wines are considered to be some of the most robust and earthy of the region. Saint-Estèphe also happens to be my favorite wine-making village in all of Médoc. It has a very charming little square with a church, a butcher, a wine store and a café that’s open sometimes. In summer, the banks of the estuary are covered with beautiful flowers in every color. There are moments when Saint-Estèphe feels almost deserted and lost in time, it’s not a lively village by any means, but it’s just how I like it.
In Pez, a nearby commune of Saint-Estèphe, there is a small maison d’hôtes (guesthouse) in a château, Ormes de Pez, that I’ve always wanted to discover. It belongs to the Cazes family who own various other vineyards, such as Château Lynch-Bages, as well as restaurants and establishments in Médoc. As they’ve gone to great lengths in their endeavours to promote and improve the region I was curious to see what they had done with Ormes de Pez.
I found the château to be the sort of place I’d love to stay in if I didn’t live in Médoc. In fact I think I might like to stay there anyway, at least once. Beautifully understated rooms, incredible location and view. But then I expected that already. The real surprise of the day was L’Intendant, M. Gilles de Marcellus – the man who runs the place. As he took us through the rooms and garden I could sense that the kitchen was calling him. It turned out he had a rendez-vous with a nice piece of lamb he was cooking for guests that evening. Gilles kindly invited us to the kitchen and even if I just had lunch the inviting smell made me instantly hungry.
In the car on the way home I had one thought in my head. I had to have that lamb. Now! So we turned the car around, headed back and asked Gilles for the recipe. He was only happy to oblige so we chatted a bit about different techniques and other recipes, including his version of ratatouille. A crunchier, modern version he likes to serve with the lamb. Then I headed to the butcher, M. Pigout, in Saint-Estèphe to get exactly the same lamb as Gilles had. As they were preparing it we had a little moment in the church, me and my boys. It’s not a very big church but incredibly grand and beautiful for it’s size thus capturing perfectly the spirit of Saint-Estèphe. Small in size but full of character.
I made the lamb the following day and once it was in the oven I started reflecting on what to serve for dessert. With the lamb needing seven hours in the oven I had a lot of time to think. We had visited a cow farm with all the kids earlier in the week and I had several bags of fresh farm milk. They had to be used so milk would be the base of my dessert. In the end I decided on a simple chocolate creme pot served with my classic madeleines and a cachou Lajaunie cream on the side. Those little licorice pastilles are another favorite, something I’ve cherished since my childhood. They’re little treats from Toulouse and I used to have them as a little girl spending summers with my grandmother. I like everything about them, the taste, the box, the memories they bring.
These little boxes are a reminder of everything I love about France and I hope they will never change.
For all information on Château Ormes de Pez, please send an email [email protected] Tel: +33(0)556593005
Lamb confit with thyme & ratatouille (serves 4-6)
1.2 kg/ 2.6 pounds(approx) of lamb shoulder, deboned and tied
1 large carrot
1 celery stalk
6 garlic cloves
A few sprigs of thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
30 g unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper
For this recipe, ask your butcher to debone and tie a 1.2 kg shoulder of lamb.
Preheat oven 140°C/ 280F
Chop all the vegetable coarsely. Set the garlic cloves aside, leaving the skin on.
In a large cast-iron pot, heat butter and olive oil. Brown meat on all sides, about 3-4 minutes each side. Season with salt and pepper. Remove meat from pot and set aside. In the same pot, add all the vegetable, garlic (skin left on), sauté for 2 minutes and return meat (with all its juices) to the pot. Add water (or chicken stock) halfway up to the meat. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Add sprigs of thyme and rosemary on top of meat. Season again with salt & pepper. Cover pot and place in the oven for 6-7 hours. Check on the meat every two hours, drizzle meat with cooking liquid. Slice meat, serve with ratatouille and drizzle with sauce and vegetables from the pot.
note: You can also heat the cooking liquid, add 400 ml/ 1 & 3/4 cups of lamb or veal stock, a small glass of white wine and reduce to half. Check the seasoning then pass it through a sieve into a bowl. Drizzle gravy on lamb before serving.
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 white onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
Olive oil, for frying
Salt & black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tomatoes for 2 minutes or until the skin starts to crack. Drain and peel tomatoes. Deseed tomatoes. Dice all the vegetables into small cubes (see photos). Make sure to keep each vegetable in separate bowls.
Next, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Sauté each vegetable (they must be all al dente, slightly crunchy) at a time in the following order: onions, peppers, aubergines, zucchini, tomatoes with the crushed garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Finally, mix all the ingredients together in the pan, mix well and turn heat off. Cover with a lid and set aside till serving time.
Petits pots au chocolat/ Chocolate creme pots (serves 6)
400 ml/ 1 & 3/4 cups full cream milk
100 ml/ 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp full cream
180 g/ 6 ounces black chocolate
2 egg yolks
25 g/ 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until smooth. Set aside.
Heat milk and cream in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and remove the seeds with the edge of a knife.
Add seeds and bean to the mixture. Bring to a soft boil and take off the heat. Discard bean pod.
Pour mixture over egg yolks/sugar very slowly, whisking constantly until blended. Return to saucepan and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes, until mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Pour mixture slowly over chocolate, stirring constantly until melted. Pour into small ramequins. Leave to cool at room temperature and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to set.
150 g/ 1 & 1/4 cup plain flour
125 g/ 1/2 cup butter or margarine (melted)
130 g/ 2/3 cup granulated sugar
20 g/ 2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp orange blossom water
Madeleine cake molds (I have silicone ones)
Whisk sugar, honey, salt and eggs together until light and fluffy. Sift flour and baking powder together, then gradually fold in the egg mixture and mix gently. Add the melted butter, orange blossom water and lemon zest, stir lightly, cover and leave to rest for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge (that’s better!). It is very important for the batter to be cold before baking – the thermal ‘shock’ is necessary for a good ‘bumpy’ round madeleine.
Preheat your oven 180°C/ 350 F
Butter and sprinkle your molds with flour. Add one good teaspoon of cold batter into the molds. Bake for 10 minutes depending on how big your molds are. When ready, use a round-edged knife to delicately lift each cake. Makes about 15-20 cakes, depending on mould size.
Licorice custard cream sauce
180 ml/ 3/4 cup full cream milk
60 ml/ 1/4 cup liquid cream
2 egg yolk
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¼ tsp licorice Lajaunie (or you can use dark strong licorice, grated or sliced finely) – more or less, according to your taste
40 g/ 2 tbsp granulated sugar
Whisk sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl, set aside.
In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, vanilla, licorice and bring to a soft boil, making sure the licorice melts. Pour mixture slowly on egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and continue to stir on a low heat until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Take off heat and set aside to cool. Serve as a dipping sauce for the Madeleine cakes.