Saturday, 12 August 2017

Sauce Béarnaise

Sauce Béarnaise is such a very versatile sauce. Whilst a classic sauce with a cote du boeuf as in the photo below, it works equally well with white fish (cod or monkfish) and stands deliciously alone with green vegetables or most vegetables in fact. The secret is to always use fresh tarragon and here stick to French rather that Russian tarragon as the French grown herb has much more superior taste.

serves 4


half a gram of crushed white peppers
2 tbsp of white wine vinegar 
stalks of tarragon
6 tbsp water
4 egg yolk 
400 g unsalted butter
salt & pepper
fresh tarragon 


Melt the butter
Put the crushed pepper in a pot add vinegar, tarragons stalks and water and boil, reduce to half, whisk in the egg yolks  one by one, and then slowly whisk in the purified melted butter, - if the sauce gets too thick , just add some water till it has the desired consistency -  and finally the freshly chopped tarragon.

In the photo below we served the béarnaise sauce with a cote du boeuf, pan fried mushrooms, BBQ slices of aubergine (eggplant) and chips!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Bruschetta Lunch

Bruschetta is a lovely light and healthy summer lunch which is quick and easy to put together. More Italian than French, Bruschetta originated in Tuscany around 1950-55  and means "a dish of toasted (bruscare = to toast) bread slices drizzled with olive oil and usually topped with tomatoes and basil. In Provence there is a similar dish called Fougasse in that the flat (fogassa/focaccia) bread is brushed with garlic and olive oil and topped with a variety of ingredients including olives,


Serves 10

6-7 ripe plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic very finely chopped
1 shallot onion finely chopped
6-7 leaves of fresh basil chopped
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
lemon juice to taste
salt & pepper to season

1 x loaf (freshly baked) flat bread (focaccia) left to cool.


Rinse the tomatoes cut in half and de-seed them. Then chop up into fine dices. Mix the garlic onion basil and balsamic vinegar well and season with lemon juice salt and pepper. Slice the bread and toast it so that you have as many toasted slices as you need. Once toasted rub it with garlic and brush it sparingly with olive oil.

Align the toast on a serving platter olive oil side up, Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon so people may serve themselves over the bread or place some topping on each toasted slice and serve. If you top each slice of toast with tomatoes do so just before serving to avoid the toast becoming soggy.  May also be served with an nasturtium flower which of course is edible and looks delicious.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Summertime and the cooking is easy......

Summertime is here again and so what a pleasure it was to welcome back last week some students who last joined us ten years ago! Mandy and her friends made sure we cooked eat and drank late into the night! 

Students enjoying an aperitif on the patio

Chef Poul shows the ladies how to plate up a dessert of caramelised strawberries

The weather was so good that we took a few days off cooking and headed to the coast of Brittany. If you ever get a chance you just have to go west and spend time visiting the little coves which exist between Douarnenez and Plobannalec-Lesconil.

It's not just about sandy beaches and beautiful coves. There are over twenty unique/historical/tropical gardens to visit in Brittany and the one we visited at Parc Botanique de Cornouaille did not disappoint. Here is a link to all the gardens in Brittany

We had to leave Scoobeaudoo at home as we were staying with friends who had two dogs so he had a little sulk until he met up with his best friend and neighbour Louis. Thank you Louis!!

Back in the kitchen and busy again plating up the evening supper which is usually four courses with pared wines..
 Betty came all the way from Sidney and no sign of jet lag either! Not bad for a lady who has offspring over fifty years old!!
 We enjoy saying cheers in many languages. In Brittany we say "Yec'hed Mat" which is Breton as well as "Sante" which is French and Skol which is Danish and of course  "Sláinte" which is Irish. However this week I discovered "Yo" which is cheers in Vietnamese! Thank you Alex!

At the end of the day whether it is lunch or dinner - it is the food as well as the company which counts. This mussel soup with saffron was delicious:
 As was this classic French tomato salad on garlic bread (Bruschetta - recipe to follow) with nasturtium flower

This langoustine moose gave rise to some coos!!

The traditional roast chicken baked in its own juices with added garlic butter and served in a home made stock enriched tarragon sauce just melted on the palate!

Live long and stay strong with Chi Gong!

It's amazing that I never heard of Chi Gong until about a month ago! A Canadian student casually introduced me to the ancient Chinese exercise only because he was intending to "perform" in our garden before breakfast and cooking class.

Chi Gong which in Chinese means "Life Energy Cultivation"is a holistic system of coordinated body mind and breathing movements which help keep the brain active, the body supple and the mussels firm. Our instructor, Anthony tells me that a Chinese lady had introduced him to the exercise twelve years ago to assist him dealing with  stress and that the Chinese themselves have been practising Chi Ging for over 3000 years!

What attracted me to the exercise was that it is a very simple range of movements taking 11 minutes in total each morning and can be done in the bedroom, or the garden or even the kitchen! Anthony certainly expounded the virtues of Chi Gong with his fit youthful body who was certainly the youngest 81 year old gentleman I have ever met! You can see the movements in action and decide for yourself in the video below!

Chi Gong at French Dining School

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Latest Review - très bonne pour nous!

Dear Niall and Poul,

Words can't express how much Julia and I enjoyed our stay at your lovely home and school. As you know, I've travelled extensively to experience various cooking vacations and I can say, without reservation, yours is truly one of the best. You are both wonderful people and truly expert at what you do. You have created a perfect blend of fun and learning which leaves your guests with both joy and skills. Your generosity of spirit, knowledge and delicious foods and wines will not be forgotten. 
Please give my regards to all and I look forward to staying in touch.
Love and blessings,

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Lunch on the patio

It was such a lovely day today that our students decided to have lunch on the patio. 
What better spot to savour the last of the season's white asparagus served in a fiesty grapefruit sauce followed by an pizza alsacienne and finally a selection of local cheeses. 

A cool bottle of Rosé (Le Cirque) did the trick along with the chirping of chaffinch and hum of bees under the shade of the blossoming lime tree! 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

A visit to Ballymaloe Cooking School Ireland

We had the honour of being invited for lunch at one of the world's most prestigious cooking schools last week. Ballymaloe is not just a cooking school. It is also a one hundred acre organic farm and a Relais @ Chateau Hotel. The cooking school is under the direction of Darina Allen and has a staff of sixty persons. As soon as you enter the school you see that it is being run under very professional hands. On the day of our visit, the school was offering cooking classes to thirty five local school children under a enlightened educational initiative between Darina herself and the Educational Authority. 

All six kitchens were in use and all tutors keeping a close eye on their charges. To the great credit of Darina and her professional team, the lunch was served in a well rehearsed manner and we were impressed with the local in house supply of salads and foods served to us. The farm is one of the most sustainable businesses of its kind certainly within the British/Irish isles if not the world. Ballymaloe is way ahead of the game spearheading the war against global food giants who are damaging the quality and diversity of our food supply. On the day of our visit, there ŵas a seminar and debate focusing on the danger of mass kelp processing initiatives which were likely to cause serious damage to the local kelp farming industry and to the sea bed around Ireland and beyond. Ballymaloe is a beacon for sustainability and it is Darina Allen and her enlightened team who are fighting this war on all fronts.

When you walk around the school or the beautiful gardens or indeed the enormous plantations under glass, you get a glimpse of the vast enterprise that Ballymaloe is and the extraordinary work being carried out to train the chefs and culinary experts of tomorrow. The hotel itself is the perfect location to enjoy great food and wine in beautiful surroundings and welcoming staff. It was a great honour to meet Darina and her team who made us so very very welcome on what was for them a busy normal day!

The School
The Chateau 
Darina and staff serving lunch

Lecture Theatre
One of thr kitchens

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Jerusalem artichoke soup

This is a delicious soup which will sustain you through those cold winter months. 


1 pound of Jerusalem artichokes, washed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of cream
1/3 cup of chopped onion
2 teaspoons of chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of freshly chopped chives
2 cups of chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste


Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan on high.

Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes or until they soften.

Add the Jerusalem artichokes, and continue to sauté for 2 more minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock, and simmer the blend until the artichokes have softened.

Pour in the cream and bring the mixture to a boil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Purée the soup in a blender until smooth. You can strain it through a sieve for an even smoother result.

Sprinkle chives over the soup, and serve it warm.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Slow Cooked Lamb Shank

Slow cooked lamb shank is one of my favourite winter dishes. Using the slow cook method requires a slow cooker and if you are looking for one make sure they have the capacity to sear as well as cook slowly and even more important, the capacity for holding sufficient quantities (this dish serves 8 so it needs to hold 8 lamb shanks as well as sauces and vegetables).

There are a large number of slow cookers on the market and they range in size and cost from $50 to $150 so ensure you know what you are going to use it for. The slow cooking itself is fairly basic but it is added on elements which drive up the cost. We use a Cuisinart which cost $130 on offer and are very happy with it.


2 tbsp olive oil
8 lamb  shanks
1 onion , roughly chopped
2 carrot , roughly chopped
few sprigs fresh rosemary
3 fresh bay leaf
4 garlic  cloves, left whole
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato  purée
350ml white wine
500ml lamb or chicken stock
Strips of kale lightly blanched (optional)

Method using a slow cooker
This recipe assumes you have a large slow cooker with facility to sear/brown as well as slow cook. Pour the oil into the slow cooker and add the shanks. Spend a good 10 mins browning the lamb all over.  Remove the shanks. Add the onion and carrot and cook for 10 mins until starting to brown. Stir in the herbs and garlic and cook for a few mins more. Stir in the flour and tomato purée, season well then pour over the wine and stock. Return the lamb shanks to the slow cooker. Switch to simmer, cover with a lid and slow cook, undisturbed, for 7 hrs.
Remove the lamb from the sauce and set aside. Put pan back on the heat and reduce it down for about 15 mins until rich and glossy. Pass through a sieve into a jug. To serve, reheat the lamb in the sauce, adding a splash of water if the sauce is too thick.

This dish goes exceedingly well with garlic mash, pan fried mushrooms and strips of kale.