Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Avocado Soup




Avocado soup is an unusual summer dish served ice cold preferably in lovely warm weather a bit like Vichyssoise. It is easy and quick to make and will certainly impress your friends as it is seldom seen in restaurants. The trick is to have ripe avocados on hand so you may well have to purchase these a week in advance. It does not keep well so serve it on the day it is made.

Serves 4

2 ripe peeled avocados (stone removed)
1 lemon zest
Lemon juice
1 small shallot onion
250 ml yoghurt
Tabasco
3 sprig of Coriander, parsley and chives

Salt & pepper

Topping when serving, toasted cashews, pine nuts or sunflower seeds

Prepare

Blend the avocado and onion to a smooth consistency.
Then add the yoghurt and finally flavour with lemon juice, zest of lemon,
Salt and pepper

Serve it ice cold it doesn't keep well so eat it the same day).

Elderberry Panna Cotta


Everyone likes a panna cotta and it has to be one of the easiest, most versatile and most impressive of all desserts! You can add so many different fruits to the cream that you can almost call it a dessert for all seasons! Elderberries are in season at present so we have been making both the cordial and the jelly and it is easy to use the jelly with the cream. (Note of caution always boil freshly picked elderberries for a few minutes and don't eat the seeds)!


Ingredients:

500 ml cream
2 gelatine leaves 
Elderberry juice or jelly
Sugar to taste
Lemon juice to taste 
Fresh berries to decorate the dish
Melted chocolate to sprinkle over dish before serving 

Method

Heat up the cream and flavour it with elderberry juice or elderberry jelly; we picked and made our own elderberry jelly (50/50 with sugar) so depending on how much sugar in the jelly you use, just add sugar to desired taste. Add the gelatin (which has been soaked in cold water for 5 minutes) into the elderberry cream.  Strain the cream and pour it into 6 small ramekins. Serve with a selections of summer fruits and sprinkle with hot chocolate.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Ravioli a la Jackie

The famous 18th century writer and gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin once said "The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star".  I thought of him last night as we prepared and tasted our new ravioli recipe "Ravioli a la Jackie" named after one of our lovely students who helped bring this delicious vegetarian dish into existence! 




Ingredients (serves 4-6 persons)

1 portion pasta

100 gram diced and roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
100 gram chopped Pistachio
100 gram Cashews
100 gram diced roasted potato
100 gram spinach or nettles
250 gram ricotta cheese
fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste


Method

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and flavour it with sage, salt & pepper.


Roll out the pasta as thin as possible, and with a teaspoon make little balls of the nutty paste and place it on top;  egg wash the pasta and then take another roll of pasta and press it around the
balls, cut the ravioli out and with a fork press the two layers together to create a perfect tight seal.



Boil them in light salty water for 3 minutes and serve them with a butter and sage sauce.





Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Latest review


After this embarrassingly long lapse of time, I am writing to you to say thank you so much for the wonderful time we spent with you at Kerrouet House. We were with you from April 30 until May 7th when you generously drove Rod and I to catch our flight out of Rennes. Our time at Kerrouet was the highlight of our travels earlier this year and upon consideration, of our travels over many years.

 

From the moment you met us at Lamballe railway station Poul until our last day when you drove us all the way to Rennes, we felt so warmly welcomed by you. It seemed nothing was too much trouble for you. The experience and fun at the cooking school was superb. We enjoyed every minute of the immersion in French (well, really French with a firm Bretagne influence!) cuisine. Your tuition has given us so much more confidence in our endeavours in our own kitchen. 

 

The home across the road that you arranged for our accommodation was superb. Thank you! We were so comfortable. We would have shared it willingly with the American and Canadian girls but it was pretty special on our own!

 

Thank you also for returning our eBikes to Saint Gilles – we really thought that was above and beyond the job description! We hope you have recommended the bikes to ongoing participants as we thought they were absolutely great and a wonderful (though sadly ineffectual) way of burning off all those cream and butter-laden meals we enjoyed with you. Footnote – Jane is very keen, but Rod is less so, to purchase eBikes for ourselves; watch this space! 

 

We remember many moments but one special one was the evening at Kerrouet after everyone but us had departed…. you both must have been so exhausted after a rigorous week but nonetheless you invited us to share a glass of wine and some cheese with you. We watched Rick Stein’s TV program where he explored the back streets of Palermo – he was very enthusiastic about the local cuisine. We arrived at Palermo about two weeks afterwards. We did not have much free time to explore. While we were there a local Mafioso was assassinated as he pedalled his white bicycle through the streets when a scooter drew up alongside….  we decided we’d take Rick’s word for how good the food was!

 

I realise all your happy participants say when departing  “if you ever come to (insert name of country) please make sure you come to see us” ….   but please do so if you are heading to the Antipodes anytime in the future. We would love to see you! We could make you BBQ sausages, some prawns and a salad and you would not need to cook!!! 

 

Wishing you all the best in the future, and may you continue to make your cooking course participants feel as relaxed and fulfilled as you made us feel. 

 

Warmest wishes and big hugs to you both and to young Scooby/Beau.


JB Australia



Monday, 4 September 2017

Lunch on the patio

Students enjoyed their first lunch on the patio today. This was their first day of cooking course and of course we had electric power failure all morning! We were therefore obliged to return to fairly traditional cooking methods and the bbq came in handy for preparing chicken bones for stock making!


The starter was a pear salad with parma ham followed by salmon fish cakes , green salad and a tatare sauce. The sun came out and so did the rosè. 

Well done everyone and I am pleased to say we have power back again!! 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A day at the market

Few food markets are as good as the Marché de Lices in central Rennes. The beautiful city of Rennes is in fact the capital of Brittany. In fact the Marché de Lices is the second biggest food market in France outside Paris. Here you have everything you could possibly want in your kitchen and to put it to the test, my friend Ulrik (from Denmark) and I decided to search for items we often have difficulty finding. For Ulrik it was fresh French figs and for me it was oxtail! Ulreck explains that normally he can only find figs from Turkey in Denmark and when I asked an Irish butcher why he could not sell me oxtail he  said because an ox only has one tail! I am sure that Irish butcher had a few more tales to tell but I was not convinced with the oxtail one!

Oxtail for sale

Oxtail roasted then slow cooked with various vegetables that same day:


It was a beautiful Saturday morning and the locals were out in force greeting each other and doing what real communities do - catching up on news and enjoying the opportunity to grab a bargain and fill their baskets with wonderful produce.

A faddish for radish?

The girolles (chanterelle mushrooms) were outstanding and a must have for our kitchen.

The opportunity to taste the product before buying is such a great treat for the chef.

Olives - a few a day is the healthy way!:



Garlic including those smoked ones I love!


Artichokes - the flower of Brittany - I have a lovely recipe for those!

Lobster Mobster! The Amorican ones are much tastier than the American ones!!

Bon Prawn at Dawn by noon all gone!!

Sausages are made from almost everything including ducks!


No shortage of bread and plenty of cake too!

A decree by King Henry IV  of France that every family should eat chicken on Sunday


The cheese producer was so dedicated to his art that he invited us to visit his farm just outside Rennes.  His cheeses were delicious!

It would not be France if there were no snails at the market!


Various butchers with their families proudly prepare and present their wares with such enthusiasm and devotion it is hard not to be drawn into their embrace.


 A little music at lunchtime always helps the aperitif. These troubadours were just fantastic!


Ulrik preparing his fresh figs with pancetta, gorgonzolla and cremé fraiche before going into the oven to be baked and served as our started tonight!


 Ulriks marriage of figario recipe is delightful!!

Baked Figs

Friday, 25 August 2017

Wine tasting in Alsace

The wines of Alsace are world famous. Top of the range of the fine Alsatian wines are those from the Weinbach Estate. Established by Capuchin monks back in 1612, the grounds of the domaine are superbly set beneath the protective Vosges mountains of eastern France. The limestone and granite soil of this area has long been recognised for wines. The Romans back in 890 AD had planted vines here when the Empress Richarde gave the land to the Abbey of Etival. 
The monastery became government property following the French Revolution in 1798 and was acquired by the current Faller family  in 1898. I met Colette Faller over thirty years ago when as a wine buyer for Denmark I visited the estate on a regular basis.   Sadly Colette has now passed on but her daughter Catherine and her son Eddy are busy managing the estate. 

Domaine Weinbach


The 74 acres of the estate lie at the heart of the Kayserberg valley. Facing south and protected by tree lined hills, it's various terroirs amplify the regions hot microclimate and possess ideal wine growing conditions. 

Domaine Weinbach with Schlossberg Hill to the right.


Catherine Faller with Poul Jensen



Grapes on the lower estate awaiting harvest


A third of the Domaine vines are located on the prestigious Schlossberg Hill and enjoy exceptional environmental conditions: granite rock with shallow, sandy soil, southern and a steep slope ensuring optimal exposure to the sun. The first terroir in Alsace to receive the status of Grand Cru Schlossberg is particularly favourable for Domaine Weinbach's great Rieslings which it endows with elegance and finesse. We were exceedingly fortunate to be invited to taste a number of these wines by Catherine's son Eddy. 

Eddy Faller and Poul Jensen



Grand Cru Schlossberg 2016



The Grands Cru Marckrain, limestone clay gives birth to a fruity and well structured Pinot Gris.

Pinot Gris 2016


In contrast, the unique limestone and limestone clay soils of Grand Cru Furstentum and Mambourg are ideal for the Gewürztraminer grape, from which the Domaine produces opulent wines with great aromatic complexity.



All these fine wines had an extraordinary quality and an amazing depth of aroma which exploded on the palate, constantly challenging the vocabulary to resonate an appropriate response! 


We were in wine heaven! We could easily have stayed all day!  However having tasted so many fine wines so early in the morning ( we started at 10am) it was time to go out and explore some of the beautiful towns along the Alsace Wine Route. 

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


Ingredients

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 

Method

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,



Ingredients

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.

Method

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 www.apjb.org


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!