Workshops 2019

Good ideas – Moveable feasts

When we first found and fell in love with the big house at 1 rue de Loudenne, a building rich with history and many past lives, we wanted to turn parts of it into a restaurant. It was a good idea but we soon came up with something better, more intimate and more enjoyable. How about, a few times a year, having groups of people come to our house, not for one meal but several. Cook with them, get to know them, share our lives, our knowledge of food, photography, wine and France. My blog, that I had started a few years earlier, was keeping me occupied and happy, communicating with readers, sharing recipes and glimpses of my life a very satisfying experience but I always felt the need for an increased reality, talking about a place is one thing, actually being there is another. A chef in a restaurant rarely meets his diners, a waiter does but usually only on a superficial level. Having many meals together in a row, many wines in a row, cooking together, sharing a bountiful table seemed like a good idea, and it turns out it was. We are in our 4th year of hosting workshops and I’m quite frankly loving it. I always had a feeling my readers were wonderful people and now I’ve found out they really are. You’ve come here in great numbers, some of you every year (which must be a compliment) and instead of things getting jaded or ordinary they are getting better. The basic idea remains the same, people come here in the morning, we cook, eat, drink and when we’re done we do it all over again. Of course there are all sorts of distractions, differently emphasized depending on the theme of the workshop, the time of year. Wine always plays a huge part, sometimes photography does too. Exploring the region, foraging, meeting our friends, sometimes cooking at their place, especially if they live on winemaking châteaux.

But this good idea has evolved, taken on a life of its own – it’s almost a concept by now, 1 rue de Loudenne is a real house, a house where you can visit, have champagne, make soufflés, have wine tastings, lunches under the olive trees or drink wonderful Bordeaux wines in front of the fire as the duck breast snarls on the sarment wine branches in the fireplace. But it’s also a virtual place, an idea of how life can be lived, something you can bring back home with you like ( a much better writer than me once called it ) a moveable feast.
In a broader context this is what we are working on creating with our new website that’s very delayed but still very much happening. www.rueloudenne.com will be the projection of our house online, a mirror of the ideas that come from here, and not just projecting online what’s happening in this house but in other places where food and quality takes a central stage. Places you can visit for real … or in spirit, places of the heart … and stomach.

I have also found that good ideas can travel, they are not bound to a house, no matter how good the house may be. And good ideas must evolve to stay young and fresh. This year I’m working on a new cookbook once again with Clarkson Potter (the Crown Publishing Group), on a subject that’s very close to our hearts – Italian cooking. We’ve taken most of our holidays, forever, in Italy. We’ve traveled there extensively, spent much time and discovered places, sometimes through our work for Condé Nast Traveler, that we could never have imagined but always knew were there (if that makes sense). The idea is to bring to the reader, not only my take on Italian cooking but that of my Italian friends who have helped me discover the originality and specialness of their respective regions. To do this well (and why would I bother if that wasn’t the plan) we have decided to take up a secondary residence in Torino (Turin), a city we have all fallen in love with. Rue Loudenne will remain our home but this is a new chapter in our lives and as I once said, why not? – while we’re still young. As I said, I believe that good ideas can travel and the idea is to bring the moveable feast that is Rue Loudenne to Italy for some special workshops throughout the year as we’ll be partially based there.

A guest attending once asked me, in the early days, “Is there anything special I need to bring to the workshop?” My answer then was “Just bring an open mind and an empty stomach”.
That is still the answer.

I hope you like what we have planned for next year, I know it seems quite far away now but as always I have received so many requests from people who are more organised than myself to give the dates and I’m glad they do – it’s wonderful to have something to look forward to.

 

Workshops of 2019

 

2019 being our fifth year I believe we’ve come up with a good “formula” for the classic workshops, something that works for most people and is enjoyable. 3 days seem to be the magic number of days, we usually start at 10.30 in the morning, cook a lunch together and then take a 2 hour break in the afternoon before reconvening, with a glass or two of champagne in one hand, some kitchen utensil in the other (and sometimes that kitchen utensil is just a cork screw), cook dinner.

The price for a standard workshop is 2.000 euros per person with everything included except accommodation which guests choose themselves – but don’t worry we have plenty of good options for you, wonderful B&B’s, beautiful houses rented out by friends …

Some workshops have additional supplements in terms of cost, often due to the fact we’re traveling, with some or all accommodation included, some restaurant meals or transportation. How much depends on which workshop. The two road trips are also longer workshops and therefore more costly.

Please note that all deposits are non-refundable. I find that to be a necessary step to avoid confusion and frivolous bookings. Should, however, something prevent you from attending the workshop you booked (and I know from experience that this can happen) I would be very happy to find other dates that work for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you all,
Mimi xx

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

Workshops at my house in Médoc, France

May 15 – 18, 2019 “The French wine Master class”, a roadtrip

Having lived and breathed Bordeaux wines for almost a decade now, having always loved wine, having wine makers as some of our closest friends, having even made our own wine – it’s safe to say that we’ve learnt a thing or two along the way. Wine has truly become a passion for us on so many levels, a nectar full of history, flavor, terroir and tradition. While most of the workshops touch to a larger or lesser degree on the subject of wine we thought, 4 years later, it was time to devote a whole workshop, not just to our beloved Bordeaux but also to the wines of other French wine regions we love. We’ll start in Champagne, meet some of our favorite producers, do tastings and end the day in Paris with a feast at one of our best-loved restaurants. The following day we’ll head down to Burgundy where we’ll continue our education/indulging and spend a night in the region after a typical Lyonnaise bistrot meal. On the third day we’ll head down to Bordeaux (it’s a bit of a drive so be warned), starting in St Émilion and spending the night in Bordeaux city. On the last day we’ll drive up to Médoc, meet our friends who make wine and finally cooking a last feast together at our house, 1 rue de Loudenne in St Yzans.

This is a 4-day workshop which is unusual but we just don’t feel we can do this properly and enjoyably in 3 day. This workshop carries a supplement due to accommodation included, restaurant meals etc.

• for furthers details and cost of participation, please send me an email on [email protected]

June 12-14, 2019 “The Playing restaurant workshop”

This is a workshop I’m particularly excited about. As I mentioned earlier in this post we had an idea, briefly, to turn parts of our house into a restaurant. We did a pop-up the first year we lived here and we’re still in love with the idea of creating the “perfect bistrot”. So while this will partially be a classic workshop it will also be built around the idea of conceiving a restaurant. Before the last day we’ll split the group in two with each party taking care of one meal, one lunch, one dinner. Each group will come up with a menu, wine pairings, table settings, flower arrangements. Which little treats to serve the guests when they arrive, the music, the coffee. And cook of course – with each person playing on his or her strengths. For fun we’ll invite a professional restaurant critic who will declare one team the winner. Sounds like fun, right?

• Cost of participation: 2000 euros per person

June 19 – 21, 2019 “The annual Summer abundance workshop”

Probably the most popular workshop of the last 2 years, so popular in fact that we added a second one in 2018. This is a celebration of summer and seasonal produce, when the season is still young and full of the freshest fruits and vegetables. A traditional workshop in summer clothes, with al fresco lunches and dinners, long communal tables, picnics and barbecues on the beaches and in the vineyards – the color of this workshop is rosé …

• Cost of participation: 2000 euros per person

September 25 – 27, 2019 “The first Fall harvest & wine workshop”

Médoc is a wine region above anything else and while the talk most of the year is of nothing but wine (and perhaps meat, mushrooms and oysters) the harvest is September is the culmination of it all – the region really comes alive, migrant workers flock to Médoc to pick in the day, party in the evenings – there are endless feasts and events, a time for celebration and sometimes also worry. The most Médoc of all periods. This will be a classic workshop, with much cooking and eating at our house but the thread of intrigue will be the wine picking (which we will participate in) the wine partying (which we will also participate in), some early foraging, some late summer celebrating. One of my favorite times of the year when we can still enjoy tomatoes and are already having mushrooms and pumpkins.

• Cost of participation: 2000 euros per person

October 2 – 4, 2019 “The second Fall harvest workshop”

Another classic workshop that’s proven incredibly popular. A similar take on the season as the Summer abundance but with slightly warmer clothes and different colors and flavors. Foraging for mushrooms, a feast in the forest, hanging out with local hunters (for those who dare), serious wine tastings, recipes rich with autumn produce and local game.

• Cost of participation: 2000 euros per person

 

Workshops in Italy

 

April 17 – 19, 2019 “Spring in Piemonte”

By then my Italian cookbook will be done and I’ll be full of knowledge, new tricks and inspiration. Piemontese cooking has really taken me by storm and I can’t wait to share all my newfound secrets. We’ll stay in the Langhe – Roero winemaking region (where they make Barolos) and spend our days cooking together, eating together, visiting one or two restaurants to sample the best of the region. We have decided, for the sake of variety and to make everyone happy, that I’ll stay put in the kitchen while others, like my husband Oddur who is a photographer and who loves wine intimately – will take those who want on wine tours and offer photography classes – a sort of cooking relief for those who need it, or spouses and friends who come along for the ride but would rather taste wine than actually cook too much. It’s a something for everyone formula 

• for furthers details and cost of participation, please send me an email on [email protected]

July 4-6, 2019 “The Mysteries of Turin”

The most unusual workshop of the year … and the most mysterious. Turin is a legendary city, the only one in the world that lies on both the so-called Black and White triangles. For three days we’ll indulge in good food and wine, while diving into these mysteries, like in a good detective novel (where the detective likes to eat and drink), fascinate ourselves with the legends, the shroud of Turin, the origins of Italian cinema, the legend of Carlo Mollino. Where Julia Child meets Agatha Christie. I’ve got goosebumps writing this …

• for furthers details and cost of participation, please send me an email on [email protected]

October 15-19, 2019 “The Great Italian roadtrip” … a cookbook revisited

Over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to visit some special places in Italy and the coming year will see us do even more travel as we put the finishing touches on my Italian cookbook. Come October 2019 we’ll be, not only celebrating the realisation of all that cooking and travel in the form of a book, but also inspired to revisit the settings of our food discoveries and photographing, sharing our favorite destinations with a few good and interested people who love Italy and want to know her better. We’ll start in Rome and work our way up through 5 regions until we’ll end up in Piemonte (of course) where we’ll have a farewell dinner (that we’ll cook together ) in our Turin apartment.

This is a 5-day “extravaganza” workshop

• for furthers details and cost of participation, please send me an email on [email protected]

December 5-7, 2019 “Festive in Piemonte”

The white truffles of Alba are one of the most sought after foods in the world. And for good reason, come October/November and Piemontese chefs & waiters will grate or slice truffles on just about everything they serve you – and it will all be delicious. We’ll escape the crowds but catch the truffles in local restaurants, set up a kitchen where we’ll cook away and explore the early winter country and festive cooking of Piemonte. This will be a workshop comparable to the “Spring in Piemonte” workshop but with vastly different ingredients and weather and some early Christmas influences for a festive atmosphere.

• for furthers details and cost of participation, please send me an email on [email protected]

WORKSHOP UPDATE … AND A FEW WORDS ON FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

A few seats left

A first, wonderful early spring workshop is behind us and I must say it’s nice to be back on track, preparing meals, sharing our kitchen, our table, our region. Getting started has prompted me to get organised, to look at the registrations for the upcoming workshops, contact people etc. After doing the math and receiving response from a few people with tentative status, here are the workshops with some (usually very limited) availability this year.

Next week we are headed to Piemonte for a very exciting workshop which is full of lovely people, some returning. So no spaces there.

After that we have the Basque workshop which is pretty full but I had one person postpone so I could add 1-2 people to that workshop. May 16-18

Next is the Summer Wine – some reservations have confirmed they couldn’t come this time so we still have a bit of space there. May 30 – June 1

Then there is the Summer Abundance workshop which was so enormously popular that we added a second, identical workshop the following week. I had turned a lot of people away but then, when the requests kept pouring in we added the second one and some people from the first one even switched dates. So now we have two, quite evenly booked Summer abundance workshops and while I’d be perfectly happy to keep the numbers how they are right now I could still add 1-2 people to each. June 20-22 & June 27-29

There are still some spaces in the Piemonte Photography and wine workshop on September 27 – 29

The Fall Harvest workshop is one of the all time most booked so that one is impossible – we could have filled it up 3 times. I’ve been trying to look at possibilities to add a second one but right now I just can’t find the time for it. October 10-12

The Autumn wine is less booked so close to full but not quite October 24-26

Additionally I’ve been getting many requests for the dates in 2019 so we are looking at that right now and I expect to announce in May or early June.

For all information please email me at [email protected]

Looking forward to hearing from you

Mimi xx

Over to my husband who has a few things to say … about cabbage, onions & co.

Tuesday vegetables and other things

Although Mimi and I both love to eat fresh vegetables we have a distinctively different relationship with them. At the market she’s searching for inspiration, something that catches her eye, something she can bring home and slice up, boil, steam or grill and ultimately make it into something much more delicious than it was in the beginning. It’s a gut feeling – literally. My sole vegetable hunts, which are very frequent are more like casting sessions but practical ones – without a fault the freshest vegetables are also the most eye-catching, what’s in season stands out. I try to look for the really interesting “faces”, not just the shiny rows of monotone soldiers, but the odd fellows, the slightly deformed – the organic boys.

Our vegetable symphony marches on in perfect harmony, the house is always full to the rafters of the freshest produce, from local growers, and in summer, from our garden. The tricky day is Tuesday. Mimi will have cooked all the stuff she bought at the weekend but a lot of mine is still sitting there, getting less pretty by the minute. I often tell people that while I’m most probably a photographer by profession my real job is arranging vegetables. And most of that never gets photographed. I use the word “arrange” loosely as “throw them in” would be more in the spirit of what I do. I don’t believe in over-styling but I do subscribe to elements like chance and luck. Let the carrots fall where they may.

This brings us back to Tuesday. Last Tuesday to be exact. We had some lovely gentlemen coming down from Paris for lunch – they will be our “leather partners” in items such as aprons, dog leashes etc. It’s taken a long time to find the right people – Joseph Bonnie.
We were late as we always are and after walking the dogs I had to choose between a shower or my vegetables. They were sitting there in crates, slowly going in the wrong direction of aesthetic pulchritude. The light would not be better later. Tomorrow these veggies would be over the hill of photographable beauty. Certain flowers and vegetables age well. Roses are like that. Tulips are not, not in my opinion anyway. The stalks fade to a yellowish-green that I find unbearable. Apples dry up, lemons (if they’re not radio-active) turn to a powderish green. Celery fades, carrots limp, asparagus shrivels and cherries ferment in rather a beautiful but not in the “I want to eat them” sort of way.

So a long story cut short I threw it all on a table and shot it, even brougth out a camera rather than a phone. The result is not magnificent but it’s fine. Fine enough for Mimi to say “my love (once again I inserted that), I’m giving some workshop updates on the blog – why don’t we post these and perhaps you can write something about them”. So now, while she’s on the roof, looking lovely in a bikini, I’m down here in the green room typing away – I type fast, a result of going to commercial college – they also taught book-keeping but I must have slept through that. Yes, typing away with a Negroni in front of me. Right now it’s about two-thirds down but I’m not even half-finished which is a terrifying though for any “writer”.

There is Champagne in the freezer though, a nice blanc de noirs (meaning white from black, only red grapes, pinot noir or pinot meunier). Yes, freezer because contrary to some wise guy sommeliers who’d love to serve the Champagne almost luke warm so it can properly “express itself” I fervently believe that Champagne should be served ice-cold. For those who’d like it a few degrees warmer, they can just wait a bit, but no Champagne ever got colder by sitting in a glass. The only exception is, that if you have a truly exceptional Champagne, something old, something from a single vineyard that’s hard to get, something so expensive that it feels like a bullet through the heart when the cork shoots through the air. Then, just maybe then, should you not put it in a freezer. And this is just my theory, not a fact – examples of really good Champagnes if you can find them are the ´99 Winston Churchill from Pol Roger, the single vineyards from Jacquesson, Salon is beautiful (but too expensive), anything from Selosse, Egly Ouriet, especially the blanc de noirs I’m in love with – Drappier Brut Nature might be the best buy on the planet – Ulysse Collin is hard to find but worth the search and out of the very big houses I favor Bollinger over anybody. As did James Bond. Like everybody I love Krug but you can find the same quality for less. And yes, Dom Perignon is actually very good. As is Cristal – I love the 2002.

Sorry – got carried away here. We were talking about vegetables. And my brief was food photography. Maybe we should go back to the beginning. My father bought me a good camera when I was about 14, my family is academic and arts were considered a … past time. Lawyers, doctors etc – that what you do for a living. I started law school, well enough I might add (important for my ego to leave that in). But then I realised it wasn’t for me. Some comparative literature (just lovely – Chekhov particularly), jobs in magazines, advertising and ultimately photography. For me it’s always been about the visuals. But I was always interested in people. In portraits. Then I met Mimi who is, as you know, interested in food. Some people might call it an obsession. A healthy one. One day we were having a fairly good coq-au-vin (which is getting to be a rarity in Parisian restaurants), then a crème caramel. We were supposed to shoot the place and I took an overhead shot which in those days was not nearly as fashionable as it is now in the days of iPhones. It’s not a perfect shot but somehow it’s got all the element that define what I do. It’s classic. There’s a trace of the coq-au-vin pot. It’s simple and stylish. The floor is good, there’s a white napkin. I didn’t realize it then but that will always be the most important food picture I’ll ever take. And my style hasn’t changed much since or, which may be regrettable, improved. But none of that really matters, to me what matters is instinct.

I’ve been reading a fine book about my favorite painter, Breakfast with Lucian. It demonstrates that he’s not introspective (which is comical given his family and famous name) but instinctive. Which is what I am too (and it’s very dangerous comparing yourself to a genius because it implies I’m putting us in the same category but I’m not … not yet anyway ha ha – just because I might say I like Champagne Pol Roger like Winston Churchill doesn’t necessarily imply that I think we’re cut from the same cloth, just that a small amount of our tastes and sensiblities are aligned). To me photography is instinct. Which is why I adore dogs. That, however, is another matter and a much longer story.

I’ve included, for your amusement (hopefully) a few other images that in one way or other depict the relationship between people and food. They are from the same time as the overhead food shot of the crème caramel. Food is nothing if nobody ever eats it – the most horrible concept is food photography where the food goes cold and ends up in the bin, maybe with some glossy, inedible oil that was put there for aesthetic purposes. My wife loves a good food picture, but she believes it could be and should be created in the short space between piping hot out of the oven and still hot enough to eat. As a good, Icelandic, soldier I consider it my duty to perfom.

Negroni is gone, even with my best efforts of restraint it just couldn’t hang in there any longer, while I have much to say on this subject, and would love to – my priority is that bottle in the freezer.

Enjoy your weekend, ours will be hot, full of food & wine and most importantly, family and friends.

Year of the dog

Tonight is the last day of the Chinese lunar calendar. We are entering the year of the dog, particularly auspicious as we have so many dogs in the family (my father, my husband, my son), from an astrology perspective and also because many are actually… dogs.

I’ve been in the best of moods all week, despite the weather, cooking some Chinese favorites and enjoying various blossom branches – always the very first sign of spring. Those and the mimosas. Earlier in the week I cooked this childhood favorite, the Hainan chicken, one of the most soothing and comforting recipes I can think of. I wanted to cook something Asian to put on the blog today and while there are many other dishes with more flair and flavor – this one feels just right for the last weeks (yes I said last) of winter. It’s filled with goodness and all the things that keep the doctors away, garlic, ginger, broth.

Tomorrow I’m off to Venice with the whole family, a little adventure on a river boat but it makes me happy that I’m keeping my promise to post a recipe per week.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, loving and prosperous Chinese new year! Mimi x

Hainan Chicken Rice (serves 6)

Chinese food is not complicated, it’s just about making sure to get a few steps right! Enjoy this delicious recipe, it’s my Asian comfort food, there are so many memories linked with this dish. Growing up in Hong Kong, I would meet my best friends and we would often order this dish (especially the one at the Clipper Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, do they still serve it? I hope o!). The chicken is blanched, dropped in an ice-bath, so it can retain its moisture. I find this recipe beautiful to make, like an old-fashioned ritual. And on top of everything, it’s such a healthy dish.

For the chicken and the broth

1.5 kg whole chicken
10 cloves of garlic, halved
A large piece (about the size of your palm) piece of ginger, sliced
1 large bunch of spring onions (scallions)
2 tablespoon Shao xing rice wine
2 tablespoon light soy
4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt and pepper

For the chicken and broth

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any leftover feathers and trim excess fat (you will need it for the rice, so set aside).
Rub both the inside and outside of the chicken really well with coarse salt to ‘exfoliate’ the skin on the chicken. Rinse well and pat dry. The chicken will be smooth and ready for cooking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Boil a large pot of water and add a few spring onion stalks, slices of ginger and 5 cloves of peeled garlic. Fill the chicken with a few more ginger slices, garlic cloves and spring onion.
Place the chicken into the large pot (neck-side down) and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Lower the heat and return the chicken to the pot, let it simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover with a lid and leave the chicken to stand for 30 more minutes. Place the chicken in an ice bowl for a few minutes, remove the ice cubes and leave aside to rest and cool for 20 minutes. Drizzle some sesame oil and light soya sauce on the chicken. This technique will make the chicken extra tender.

2) For the rice.

Wash the rice and soak for 20 mins. Drain dry and set aside.

In a small pan, heat the chicken fat with 1 tablespoon water and cook until the fat has melted. When the fat is hot, add a few slices of ginger and garlic, sauté for 2-3 minutes. Transfer all the ingredients including the oil into the rice cooker and mix in the washed rice. Add enough chicken stock to cook the rice according to your favorite method. I have a classic rice cooker, and it takes approx. 15-20 minutes to cook.

3) For the broth

Re-heat the chicken stock and add salt according to your taste. I like to add a few tablespoons of Shao Xing wine for taste, but that is optional. Garnish with coriander and sliced spring onion before serving.

4) For the sauce

1 large piece of ginger (about the size of half your palm), peeled and cut into small chunks
1 bunch of spring onion (scallions), chopped
2 teaspoon sea salt, or more if you prefer
150-200 ml/ about 2/3 cup peanut oil, add more if you want a looser sauce

Place the ginger in the food processor and process until the ginger is finely minced. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat the same with the spring onions (make sure they are lightly minced). Add them to bowl with the ginger. Season generously with salt.
Heat the peanut oil in a pan until it is very hot, the add the ginger and spring onions. Stir quickly for a 5 seconds and transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool and serve with chicken.

Chop the chicken into slices (with the skin on). Drizzle with a little soya sauce and sesame oil. Serve with a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, the ginger sauce and garnish everything with fresh coriander, sliced cucumber, and don’t forget your favorite chilli sauce too!

Delicious Green Soup

Sunday raid

Sundays everywhere tend to be quiet but here in Médoc, especially in winter, they are extra quiet. All the stores are closed, there are no markets after lunch, there is nothing. Of course we always have good food around the house so I know we won’t starve, that would take weeks, but while we usually plan our Friday and Saturday meals, Sunday is a wild card – I like to see what happens, challenge myself to cook with what we have. And I must admit we probably always have more food than most people, even on Sundays. It’s an exercise in flavors rather than survival. Sometime after breakfast this morning (which was avocado and smoked salmon with flax-seed and a good cup of tea) I ventured into the “boucherie” (named after the old butcher’s table) that serves as our pantry. The boucherie is always cool but in February it’s very cold and perfect for vegetables who want to stay young. It’s also a bit of an Aladdin’s cave for me, I don’t go in there everyday and some of the stuff has been brought in by my husband without my knowledge. This morning I was delighted to find a fresh bundle of watercress, a little bit of chervil and some Jerusalem artichokes amongst all the regulars, such as celery, carrots and onions.

The first weeks of the year have been calm and replenishing, a little too wet perhaps for my taste and my roof but a good if uneventful start to the year. It’s always healthy to take a step back once in a while, spend time with your loved ones, catch up on sleep. And to think.

I’ve also been thinking more about being and eating healthy than usual and while I think we generally eat very well it’s always good to step up your game. We all know the rules, a little less baguette, a little more vegetables, take it easy on the meat and pasta, again a little more vegetables. A little less wine a little more water.

Little tweaks to get ready for summer, small steps to look and feel better. I don’t believe in extremes, but I do believe in extremely good food.

We are still planning to launch our new website this Spring but I do miss you all so I’ve decided to post random recipes that feel appropriate or inspiring – I’ll try to do one a week until the new site is up and running. So that we can all keep in touch.

In other news we had so many bookings and so many requests for the Summer Abundance workshop in June that we decided to add a second Summer abundance workshop the following week – June 27th to June 29th. We are just starting to take bookings but it’s already filling up so if you’re interested please don’t hesitate to write.

Did you that watercress has more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and boosts your complexion? This is a must to make this cold season, so simple and delicious. I loved slicing vegetables with a mandoline, it makes everything easier and cook faster. Adding the Jerusalem artichokes chips mixed with the crispy chervil makes this soup so luxurious, and I love the peppery taste the watercress gives. I’ve added extra spices like turmeric, cloves and ginger to give that boost which we all need this winter.

Watercress soup with Jerusalem artichokes and chervil chips

2 bunches of watercress (chopped, including stems)
1 onion, sliced finely
2 small russet potatoes, sliced finely with a mandoline
475 ml/ 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock,
150 ml cream/ crème entière (optional)
3 cloves, crushed
A small cube-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
A teaspoon of turmeric
Salt & a dash of black pepper

For the chips:
300 ml vegetable oil for frying
2 Jerusalem artichokes, sliced as finely as possible with a mandoline
A small bunch of fresh chervil
A sprinkle of fleur de sel

Pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Slice (with a mandoline) the potatoes and onion, and drop them into the stock. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, lower the heat then add the watercress, ginger, turmeric, cloves, salt and pepper. Cover again and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until all the ingredients are tender.

Purée the soup in the blender and add the cream.

Heat the oil in a heavy medium-size pot until hot and ready, make a test by throwing in a slice of Jerusalem artichoke and if it sizzles, the temperature is ready for frying. Add Jerusalem artichoke slices to the oil in small handfuls, turning gently with a wire skimmer, until pale gold and crisp, about 45 seconds to a good minute. Transfer chips to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt. Repeat the same with the chervil, for less than 15 seconds or so. Add them to the plate of chips so they get to mix, this will create a great flavour.

Reheat the soup on a low heat and ladle the soup into bowls. Scatter the chips and chervil on top and serve immediately.

Fruits d’Automne

The Fruits of fall and vegetables of winter

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday, the girls were playing rough in their room and broke an old chair they used for their desk. A pity as it was a nice chair … but these things happen. Fortunately, about the easiest thing to replace in our village on a Sunday is a desk chair. In Médoc nothing is open on Sundays and our village and the surrounding ones literally have no stores at all. All we have is an antiques store, full of little gems. And the best part is, it’s open on Sunday afternoons. In other words, in our neck of the woods you couldn’t buy diapers or shampoo to save your life on a Sunday but a new chandelier or a portrait of someone’s grandfather, not a problem. After lunch Oddur headed to St Christoly and came back with two chairs (what’s happened once can always happen again, right?) some nice decanters and a beautiful drawing of a lady holding a basket of apples. Under it, in Italics, is written : Fruits d’Automne. Next to the sentence is a drawing of a funny little man with a hat. I was immediately taken by the image, very nicely done, very carefree, very seasonal. Seasonal before it became a lifestyle, when it was simply life. I immediately decided to talk about the lady in the picture in my next blogpost – the timing was just so perfect, but she also made me think about our way of life. Now that we have lived in the countryside for 7 years, seasonal living has truly become a part of who I am and while I can still remember how it was living in Paris (and it was magical) I can’t really feel it. We cook with what we have and what we have is what’s in season. Writing a blog over a period of time, I’m sure I’m starting to repeat myself, thoughts much like fruits and vegetables are cyclical, but just like you can never eat the same apple twice – neither can a thought ever be exactly the same. We all feel a familiar feeling as Christmas approaches, we go through the same motions. Buying presents, setting up the Christmas tree, the old ornaments. Stocking up on Champagne, planning feasts. But something is always new, even if it’s just our own perspective … and in our case we usually have a new family member pretty much every year.

This time I decided to do a very approachable menu, nothing too fancy, very tried and tested in this house. I think we’ve had all the dishes at least 5 times in the last few weeks. The ingredients are all quite humble, but of great quality and as it happens, very healthy. Kakis are some of my absolute favourite fruits and while I usually just have them plain after a big meal, when a light dessert is required, they are also wonderful in fritters. Talking about new thoughts, I was recently in Torino doing a special blend with our friends from the Vergnano coffee family in Chieri and one night we had dinner at the wonderful Al Gatto Nero restaurant. After indulging too much in white truffles, Andrea, the brilliant owner, who to me IS the place, suggested something light, Kaki. The way they served it was lightly soaked in Rum with a tiny dollop of ice-cream in the middle. It was as perfect an ending to a meal as any I’ve had.

The salad was the first thing on the menu and the first thing I thought of. We’ve been enjoying it so much recently and a dear friend, Hrafnhildur from Iceland, who was here with my mother-in-law recently said “Not only is this the best salad I’ve ever had, it’s also the most beautiful”. That’s what I call a compliment. The Chicken Supreme is my favourite cut of chicken, the breast with the succulent wingbone which makes everything juicier. But for dessert I was hesitating. The lady in the drawing and her apples were calling me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. In walks Fabien (he literally walks in many mornings while I’m still in my pyjamas, to say hi and have coffee). I remember him saying years ago that one of his favourite childhood memories where those of his mother’s apple fritters (beignets). So that was sorted. As luck would have it, opposite his château is another wine making property with a glorious Kaki tree. Fabien told us he’d arrange for a permit from the owner to pluck some, he also promised to lend us a ladder. As you can see from the photos, he couldn’t find a ladder and brought a chair, which was good enough and as my husband would say, more photogenic. (you can see Fabien sitting on that chair next to his sister Véronique)

As I’m writing this I must admit that I’ve missed writing these posts, I’ve missed you all, your comments and thoughts. It’s a special feeling I don’t want to ever lose. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m drinking Champagne and the kids are behaving. So are the dogs which is even rarer. And my husband is cooking dinner. Spaghetti with garlic an chilies, then pigeon. Then chocolates (he doesn’t do dessert). It also mean we’ll eat late, that’s one of his specialities, very late dinners. He recruits the kids, turns it into a game, spends more time selecting music than actually chopping. Then selects the same opera anyway. I’m not complaining.

The fairytale

Since last night I’ve been playing around with playlists. Trying to assemble a decent, alternative to the holiday music we always listen to. So far I’m advancing well. Some French touches – Michel Legrand etc. Some all time favourites like Elvis’s blue Christmas. A lot of sixties music – sometimes it feels like Christmas was invented in the sixties. It makes you think of posters of men with hats and pipes, opening the trunks of their Cadillacs and pulling out a box with a puppy in it. A puppy called Buddy, a gift for a boy called Jack. And what is Christmas without the carols? Click here to follow my playlist on Spotify, it’s called Mimi’s Christmas.

This is where I was at until 10 minutes ago, then the phone rang. “We have found your puppy madame” said the lady from the veterinary clinic. I was stunned.

In July, our beautiful Moneypenny had a litter of 8 puppies – Smooth Fox Terriers. Humfri Bogart, the king of the house is the father. We had 7 boys, all brown and white. One girl, black and white. They had just started going to their new owners when disaster struck in late September. The puppies had been left out later than usual, it was a balmy evening and they were playing under the olive trees and we had a dinner elsewhere with our workshop guests. When we came back one was missing. Nelson. He was the most outgoing, fearless. The handsomest of the lot. Had someone wanted to take a puppy they would have opened the gates and he would always have been the first one to approach. We searched everywhere, Thorir, Oddur & Mathias spent most of the night driving, cycling, walking around the village, the vineyards. Not a trace. For a few days we were hopeful then we just hoped he was fine even if we’d never see him again.

And now this. A true Christmas miracle. He’s still at the Vet’s, it was too late to pick him up tonight as they were closing and my husband wasn’t here. But tomorrow will be so much fun.

Just like Christmas in the sixties.

Watch what happens in 2018

Since this is the last post of the year I thought I’d share a few things. This time not a new baby – phew 🙂

I’ve been promising a new site, Rue Loudenne. We are very behind I know. Sorry about that but it’s going to be worth it. Launch date is now firmly March 2018. It will be brilliant, and very different. But as I said before Manger will live on, four times a year.

So many projects in the pipelines, many exciting collaborations, for example our coffee venture with Caffé Vergnano, the nicest coffee family in Italy who make the absolute best coffee I ever had.

And a new cookbook slowly rising in the oven. As you know my heart, though French, has been beating in Italian for a while so an Italian cookbook had to happen. Next year we’ll do it.

We’ve just had the ‘French Country Cooking’ cookbook come out in French recently (Éditions Hachette), and soon it will also be in Italian (@ Guido Tomasi)!

And what else? Well, our own cooking show, lots of gifts for sale, and of course our exciting workshops (that are nearly all fully booked!)… I just can’t wait!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the playlist! Joyeux Noël!

Much love, always, Mimi x

ps: Louise and Gaïa’s dresses are from Bonpoint, and Little Audrey’s is from Liberty’s and that amazing little burgundy coat is from Amaïa.

Jerusalem artichoke salad with spinach, red onions, radishes and walnuts

This is perhaps the most delicious way to cook these small artichokes. They are crunchy and filled with flavor. The colours of this salad are exquisite, deep browns and pinks. This will be my Christmas salad, adding pomegranate seeds to add sweetness and the best red in the business.

Ingredients:
6-8 Jerusalem artichokes/ topinambours, cleaned and sliced
1 large red onion, sliced into quarters
A small bunch of radishes (preferably round ones), halved
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves,
2 handful of fresh walnuts, halved
A sprig of fresh parsley, chopped finely
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar (I like to use the crema of balsamic)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F

Slice the Jerusalem artichokes vertically, halve the radishes and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt. Roast for 15 minutes, (or until vegetables are golden) in the oven 180°C/ 350°C.

Slice onions, halve the walnuts and add to the baking tray after 10 minutes. Continue to roast for 10 to 12 minutes. Let the tray cool down and toss the spinach leaves with extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season accordingly.

Chicken suprême cocotte with autumn vegetables

This is one of my favourite recipes this year. Always a crowd pleaser (this is especially for all my workshop guests who have waited so long for the recipe!), the chicken suprême (it’s the chicken breast with the wing bone attached) is so tasteful with the seasonal vegetables, and I love to use Jura yellow wine (le vin du Jura), but white wine will do beautifully too. Adding cream is optional, but everyone at home asks for it so it must be better! Make sure to add it last so you don’t cook the cream.

Ingredients (serves 6):

6 chicken supremes (chicken breast with the wing bone or chicken cutlet)
5 carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise
4 medium turnips (navets), quartered
2 parsnips (panais), peeled and sliced lengthwise
200 gr peeled and cooked chestnuts, halved
10 radishes, cut in half
1 and a half glass of white wine
Olive oil
Unsalted butter, about 25 g
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground pepper
A few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped for garnishing

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°C

In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter on a medium heat.

Mix the flour with pepper and salt; dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture lightly. Brown the chicken on all sides until golden. Set aside.

With the rest of the oil in the pot, sauté all the vegetables batch by batch until golden on all sides.All vegetables should be al dente.

Toss everything together and bring to a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir everything together gently. Let the wine reduce for less than a minute. Season accordingly with salt and pepper.

Place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the cream (optional).

Scatter lots of parsley on top.

Serve immediately.

Apple and persimmon beignets

This is such an old-fashioned dessert, simple and delicious. What I love most is the flexibility of this recipe, you can use almost any fruits you desire. Un vrai délice!

Ingredients:

2 medium apples and 2 persimmons, sliced

Prepare the batter:

250 g/ 2 cups plain flour
2 eggs
200 ml/ 3/4 cup half or whole (full-cream) milk
150 m/ 2/3 cup beer
50 g/ 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp rum (optional)
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for cooking the fritters
Icing sugar/ confectioner’s sugar, to dust the fritters

Mix all the ingredients for the batter together in a large bowl until you get a smooth consistency. Cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to one hour.

Heat oil in a saucepan, about 1 to 1 1/2 inch deep in the pan. To test if the oil is ready, fry a few drops of batter. If it sizzles and turns golden brown within seconds, it’s ready. Dip the apple and persimmons slices in the batter, drain slightly and fry in batches (about 3-4 per batch) until the fritters become golden brown, approx 2 minutes on each side. Remove fritters with pliers or slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Dust lightly with icing/ confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Forty shades of green

Mr McDonnell’s way

“Happy wife, happy life!” said Mr McDonnell as we drove (incredibly fast) in his Mercedes from Dublin to Limerick on a very grey but green afternoon in late October. It was his way of explaining why he had been prepared, on a Saturday, to drive 3 hours to Dublin airport and then 3 hours back, all the way to Glin castle on the other side of Ireland. It’s not that he’s not a busy man, as owner of a great big cow farm there are things to do, even on Saturdays, but “I’m always happy to help”. And three days later, as he drove us to the airport, albeit a closer one, we had come to understand that his mantra is true of many of the Irish in general. They are happy to help!

I had wanted to visit Ireland for most of my adult life and while it’s close enough to France, and even closer to England, where I lived for many years, I never had a good enough reason – sometimes you need a reason to do things, even things you desperately want to do. It turned out, in the end, that there were two reasons. Mr McDonnell’s wife, Imen, and her partner in crime Cliodhna. They’ve been doing their best for Ireland for years now, drawing attention to their respective home towns, local producers and traditions. Their joint enterprise, the beautifully named “Lens and Larder” is a collection of workshops usually co-hosted by them and people they invite, like Oddur and I, who also live and breathe in the world of food and photos.

The venue was irresistible, a real castle with a rich history and glorious gardens. The promise of days filled with cooking and eating and a historic pub that allegedly serves some of the best Guinness stout in Ireland – and not much else. The last part was enough to convince my husband, that and the fact that they’ve recently discovered in Iceland that their heritage is much less Norwegian than previously thought but considerably more Irish. A genetics company in Iceland, DeCode, has found through extensive studies that the Icelandic nation is comprised of around 80% Norwegian men and as much as 60-70% Celtic women. Maybe not the most romantic statistic, quite a brutal one actually, but it goes a long way to explaining why Icelanders look less like Swedes and more like, well, the Irish.

No sooner had we arrived at Glin castle before I was whisked away from my grand bedroom complete with a four-poster bed, an enormous, carpeted bathroom (incredibly practical when travelling with a 1-year-old) and a welcome bucket of Champagne to the loveliest dinner in the reddest of dining rooms. Our hosts that night were Catherine whose father was the last Knight of Glin and her actor husband Dominic West. We had started with a sloe gin cocktail (which I liked even if I am not a fan of gin) drunk out of teacups which was quite charming and eccentric, but soon moved on to the Bordeaux wine we had brought with us, several vintages of Château Lafon-Rochet – Merci Basile 🙂 – which everybody loved. When it comes to wine, nobody does it better than “us” Bordeaux people. The evening ended with a “professional” game of Charades, led of course by Dominic but by then I was safely tucked away in that four-poster bed, sleeping soundly with baby Lucian while the others moved on to Irish whiskey.

A pub and kitchen garden

Perhaps my favorite part of the entire weekend came the following morning when Catherine, a landscape gardener, took us on a tour of the family gardens, filled with centuries worth of exotic trees which, surprisingly, thrive perfectly well in rainy Ireland. She’s so passionate about her gardens, to which she’s adding and preserving, making it one of the missions of her life like her grandmother before her. Imagine an English/Irish beauty in a fairytale or a children’s book – that’s Catherine. My dearest souvenirs I take from her kitchen gardens. Classically seperated from the rest of the fields, so beautiful and practical at the same time – some of the best leafy greens and herbs I’ve ever had came from that garden and it’s inspired us to plant some new varieties in our own “potager” back home.

The huntsmen (and their children) came out in full uniform to greet us and while there was no actual hunt that day we had a fabulous huntsman lunch, complete with mackerel, ham and hot toddies. In the evening we had a pub dinner, oysters and Irish lamb stew. The music that night was traditional and beautiful but perhaps the most beautiful sentiment from that evening came from the pub’s owner or caretaker Thomas O’Shaughnessy. He inherited the place from his father, a legendary figure, and while it wasn’t particularly his dream to run a pub (he has another full-time job and only opens when he can), he considers himself the caretaker of the place and his duty to preserve it. Later I found this quote from Thomas in an article about the O’Shaughnessy pub : “O’Shaughnessy was the name above the bar when I got it. And it’ll be the name above it when I go. That’s all I can do”. This is an endearing thought to me and I found a lot of encouragement in Ireland – people seem to understand and value their heritage which is paramount in these times of globalisation and consumerism. It isn’t easy to run a small business and a small village. But it can and must be done, and we should all support it.

In the end we didn’t see much of Ireland, just a glimpse and a rosy, curated one at that. But we saw enough to want to come back very soon and one thing stands out above all – the green isle is truly green. Everything is so (in local speak) bloody green. I think I remember correctly that Imen’s husband told us Johnny Cash wrote his song “forty shades of green” as he was taking off in a plane and flying over Ireland. No wonder, that’s the impression you get, so so green and moist and inviting. Only thing is though, the shades are more like a million.

Johnny Cash’s song is beautifully written, here are the lyrics:


I close my eyes and picture
The emerald of the sea
From the fishing boats at Dingle
To the shores of Donadea

I miss the river Shannon
And the folks at Skibbereen
The moorlands and the meddle
With their forty shades of green

But most of all I miss a girl
In Tipperary town
And most of all I miss her lips
As soft as eiderdown

Again I want to see and do
The things we’ve done and seen
Where the breeze is sweet as Shalimar
And there’s forty shades of green

Green, green, forty shades of green

I wish that I could spend an hour
At Dublin’s churching surf
I’d love to watch the farmers
Drain the bogs and spade the turf

To see again the thatching
Of the straw the women glean
I’d walk from Cork to Larne to see
The forty shades of green

But most of all I miss a girl …

The ballad of Sam and Niamh

Two people who I haven’t mentioned yet but had a great, positive if gently quiet influence on our days in Ireland were Sam and Niamh. They live across the great river Shannon in county Clare but had come across for a few days to help out with Imen and Cliodhna’s workshop. They made us the best breakfasts, lunches and dinners, cocktails and hot toddies but most of all they were just lovely. He’s a real renaissance man, good with his hands as they say and she works wonders in the kitchen. I’m hoping to lure them over one day to teach us a trick or two (my husband could use a tip or two when it comes to gardening and carpentry) but as they’re expecting a baby that will probably have to wait. One of my favorite things they made was a crab salad served on a fresh endive – I might add that recipe to this post later on – but for now, here is their recipe for the traditional Irish soda bread that I couldn’t get enough of during my stay at Glin castle.

Traditional Soda Bread Recipe (see last picture in post)

Makes 1 loaf

Total time to make: 55 minutes

Ingredients

225 g/ 1 3/4 cupswhole wheat (wholemeal) flour
225 g/ 1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
50 g/ 3 tablespoons/ mixed seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower, or golden flax seeds (linseeds) (optional)
25 g/ 2 tablespoons butter, softened (optional)
1 egg
375–400 ml/ 1 2/3 cups buttermilk or soured milk

Preheat the oven 180C/ 350F

Mix dry together and then rub in butter and add wet all in one, knead as little as possible. Sprinkle with seeds or oats on top and slit with a serrated knife down the middle. Just like a cake get it into the tin and in the oven ASAP

Bake at 180C/ 350F for 45 mins.

Stick in a pin in the middle and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

Cool on rack before serving.

Onwards and upwards

Those who are interested in finding out more about what Imen and Cliodhna (or Climen as my husband likes to call them) can go to their site lens & larder. They are always plotting something and might even lure us back to Ireland in the spring – which is very tempting, we’ll see 🙂

On another note, it’s worth mentioning that Glin castle, which has had many lives – one as a hotel – is potentially up for event letting, meaning that if you’re interested to head to Ireland with a sizeable group and play castle for a few days, then that’s utterly possible. It’s a dream I might add.

And finally, regarding our own workshops here in Médoc (and elsewhere) since we announced last summer we’ve had an overwhelming response and most touchingly over 100 requests from people who want to or are at least considering returning. Many workshops are completely full but some have a little leverage (sometimes people change their plans etc) – so if you’re interested don’t hesitate to write and we’ll see what we can do.

Workshops 2018

WORKSHOPS 2018

When we first visited the house at 1 rue de Loudenne, which was also the day we decided to buy it, we were struck by how big it is. It somehow looks smaller from the outside. Nothing really indicates the vast hallways, the countless large rooms. That day we knew we wanted to live here but also … to do something else, bring it to life. One of the ideas we had was to host workshops, bring together like-minded and lovely people who love cooking and eating, who love France, wine, the countryside, photography. People who love beauty. People who like to cook and eat all day, then go shopping for antiques, then cook some more, often with a coupe of Champagne in one hand and a whisk in the other. I was a little bit hesitant when we put up the first notice on my blog. Was it really a good idea, would people like it. Would we like them? Would anyone want to come?

Now we are in our third year and it’s all gone swimmingly. It has long ceased to surprise me that the people who come here are wonderful. That they have a good time, that they take something valuable from the experience and that they leave a little piece of themselves behind. Something to remember them by. I think everybody takes something different home with them. Some recipes of course, but more than that. Memories of shared moments. An improved knowledge of Bordeaux wines. Dining and entertaining tips, perhaps how to be relaxed in the kitchen under a bit of pressure. How to have fun while hosting a party. How to make perfect meringues.

I know a good deal about subjects I never thought I’d know anything about. Like how to get divorced in America or who to call if I need a wedding photographer in Norway. I know how to invest my fortune if I ever have one, who to call if I need reconstructive surgery. We’ve had a retired congressman, sommeliers, doctors, lawyers, dancers, artists, people of all ages, and occupations. A lovely man brought rice from Minnesota. A dear woman made me an artichoke in Bronze. Our guests have been lovely to our children, they have adopted some of our dogs. So many have returned and quite a few have bought houses in the region.

Last year when we announced the workshops for 2017 I mentioned we might be doing less workshops in 2018. I had just given birth to my baby boy and as much as I love the workshops I felt I needed time to attend to other things. But now we are approaching the end of the spring/summer season of hosting the workshops and it’s gone so well, been so enjoyable and easy. It’s been just right and I’d love to continue.

It’s been a pleasure meeting all of you and I’m sure we’ll meet again some day.

Class of 2018

Being in our third year we have found a formula we are comfortable with, all workshops will be 3 days like this year, the hours and prices for participation will stay the same. But one mustn’t get too comfortable, there is always room for evolution and next year we’ll travel a bit more, expand our horizons as it were.

So here they are, next year’s dates. I hope there is something for everyone.

April 11 -13, “The Spring vegetarian workshop”

As always we’ll meet in the morning, cook together, have lunch – then take a small break. After the break we start all over again. It’s a perfect time of the year to focus on vegetables as spring brings out so much freshness after the winter. Asparagus (white and green), fava beans, peas, radishes, artichokes, chard, spinach, strawberries. These are the stars of this show and the menu will be 100% vegetarian which is a first for us. This year we did a similar workshop but included some meat so next year we’ll go all the way but keep it equally delicious.

April 26 – 28, “The Italian cooking workshop”

Our first foray outside Médoc borders will be in Piemonte, a region we have fallen in love with. The focus is on Italian, regional cooking and will be in association with local culinary talent. This means I must up my Italian game and I love a good challenge. We’ll meet in Torino and spend 3 days in the region together, with at least a day in our new favorite city. Local wines like Barolo and Barbaresco will play a part and we’ll visit some winemakers and producers. Piemonte is after all the home of “Slow food” and while all of Italy is bursting with great food, Piemontese cooking is very close to my heart.

May 16 – 18, “The Basque workshop”

This is a workshop I’m particularly looking forward to as it includes my friend and France’s finest charcutier, Eric Ospital. We’ll spend half our time in Médoc, cooking and eating in my house and the other half, including one night, will be spent in Basque country “Pays Basque”. Eric will show us around, we’ll visit his place where he cures hams for some of the finest restaurants in France. We’ll go to the beach, have a seafood dinner in St Jean de Luz which is a gem of a place.

May 30 – June 1st, “The Summer wine workshop”

As most of you know we live in one of the best known … and best period, wine regions in the world. This workshop will be dedicated to Bordeaux wines. We’ll have a guest sommelier, visit some friendly Chateaux and try more good wines than anyone should. Except they should 🙂 Most of the meals will be had at my house in St Yzans but there will be plenty of fun outings.

June 20 – 22, “The Summer abundance workshop”

Just like the early April workshop is a tribute to to spring, this one is a tribute to the glory of Summer. But with a lot of meat! This workshop will be all about peaches, apricots, cherries and barbecues. Expect a lot of decadent al fresco feasts, tables charged with pork roasts and duck breasts, creamy cakes, mountains of fruits and magnums of wine. This workshop will take place at our house in St Yzans but we’ll do some outings and fun picnics as well.

June 28 – 30, “The photography workshop in Arles”

In the past few years we’ve had the pleasure of visiting Arles regularly. To put it simply, it’s a cool town in a wonderful region, a happening place with a big heart, especially in the cultural sense. Vincent Van Gogh lived in Arles during a very productive period of his life and today the town hosts a great photography festival every year. We thought we’d head to Arles next summer, enjoy the burgeoning food scene, drink some local wines and most of all take photos.

September 27 – 29, “The Italian wine & photography workshop”

Next fall we’ll head back to Piemonte for second “annual” photography workshop. My husband Oddur will (literally) be in the driver’s seat as photos and wine are two of his passions. We’ll meet up in Torino, spend a day there and work our way through the vineyards of Barolo until we find ourselves on the Ligurian coast in time for a plate of Pesto. This time there will be limited cooking but lots of eating and drinking. We’ll visit winemakers but the focus is on photography. We’ll say our goodbyes on the coast so this is an ideal opportunity for those who want to extend their stay, head further south or lounge on the beach in Liguria.

October 10 – 12, “The Fall Harvest workshop

In Médoc, fall is the richest season of all, not only is all the wine being harvested which brings the region to life but this is the time when Médoc is flush with mushrooms, pumpkins and game. This workshop will all take place at our house in St Yzans but we’ll forage for mushrooms, follow hunters, participate in the wine harvest. The culmination will be an all day feast in the forest, enjoying the bounty of the season.

October 24 – 26, “The Autumn wine workshop”

Very much a replica of the “Summer wine workshop” but with a different tone as we’re in another season. “Bigger” food, and even more serious, older wines.

All workshops are 3 days and the price for participation is 2.000 euros per person (with a few notable exceptions – workshops where we travel and the second wine workshop). Please note that all deposits are non-refundable. I find that to be a necessary step to avoid confusion and frivolous bookings. Should, however, something prevent you from coming at the date of your booking we would be more than happy to try to find other dates that suit you.

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

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

Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
Mimi xx

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

Additionally if any of you can get together a group of 8 people I can arrange something outside the published dates for you, if the dates and stars align.

On days like these

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

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

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

RUE LOUDENNE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merci my friend …

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

The girls dresses are from Marie Puce Paris.

Leeks with hazelnuts and goat’s cheese crumble

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

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

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

Make the crumble:

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

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

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

Cod with gratinée chorizo

(for 6 people)

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

Preheat the oven to 400F/200°C

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

Double Fantasy, again

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all for now, I give you … Yoko

tajarinstyzansminni

tajaringattonero

Tajarin – Inspired by Torino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Como Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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Raimond

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

The Playlist

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

Yves Montand – C’est si bon

Dusty Springfield – Take another piece of my heart

Raspberries – Go all the way

Gerry Rafferty – Right down the line

Dalida – Paroles Paroles

Charles Aznavour – Les Comédiens

Chet Baker – I fall in love too easily

Frank Sinatra – Days of wine and roses

Gilbert Bécaud – Je reviens te chercher

Peter Sarstedt – Where do you go to my lovely

Lucienne Boyer – Parlez moi d’amour

George Michael – Kissing a fool

Dusty Springfield – Windmills of my mind

John Lennon – (Just like) Starting over

Frank Sinatra – Watch what happens

Click here to get the playlist on Spotify.

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Armagnac – A fling in the spring

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

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

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

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

arlesprovence

Rediscovering Provence

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

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

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Happy hour

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

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

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

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

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French Country Cooking

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

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

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

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

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

The Insta Puppies

Oddur here (enough with this Yoko business).

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

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

Here are a few:

@ardenpalaisroyal
@pitalicious
@johnraynyc

Others share their accounts with their adoptive parents.

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

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The Chicken Suprême

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

Recipe

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

8 garlic cloves, slightly crushed and unpeeled

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

160 ml/ 2/3 cup white wine

A bouquet of fresh rosemary

Olive oil

Fleur de sel  and freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F 

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

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

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

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The Count of Monte Cristo

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

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

Moments Preserved

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TUESDAY, P.M.

Dear Carl

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

Maurice

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

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

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

mimi

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CONFESSIONS OF A BAD BLOGGER

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned 🙂

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THE CHRISTMAS MEAL BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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

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

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

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

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PRECIOUS MOMENTS

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

Moments preserved.

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

Really looking forward to hearing from you!

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

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oysterscrepinette

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

guinefowl

Roast guinea fowl with chestnuts, apples and red cabbage

1 large guinea fowl, approx. 3 to 4 pounds/ 1.5-1.8 kg (you can alternate and use a chicken instead)
1 medium-sized red cabbage
3 red onions, peeled and quartered
20 ounces/ 570 g peeled cooked chestnuts
8 small red apples, quartered
A glass or two of Bordeaux red wine (or any of your favourite cooking wine)
¼ cup/ 60 g unsalted butter, in small chunks
Olive oil
A small bunch of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chestnutcake

Vanilla Chestnut cake

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

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

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

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

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

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

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