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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
2 medium apples and 2 persimmons, sliced
Prepare the batter:
250 g/ 2 cups plain flour
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.