Saturday, 20 April 2019

It’s not just about taste!


Garden flowers set the scene for a dramatic dining experience

Lobster bisque - one of the best soups in the world

Roast lamb - it’s all about timing

Roast lamb with ratatouille served with a basil sauce


Classic tiramisu wins every time

A trip around Dinan Market


Dinan is a lovely medieval town with its very own port on the River Rance. It has a wonderful historic city centre with outstanding architectural merit. Every Thursday morning our students have a choice to visit the food market and sample a galette saucisson (galette sausage with onions and mustard wrapped up in a buckwheat pancake - one of Brittany’s best fast food delights!


One is never enough!!

Brittany is the home of beautiful hydrangeas

Street artists are never far away

The art of a good galette is in the wrist

Join a queue and you won’t go wrong

It’s asparagus season!

The wild boar are plenty about

Brittany is the fruit and vegetable centre of France


Brittany now has its very own Pastis and it’s delicious!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Celebrating St Patrick's Day with an Irish Dish!

Many neighbours are asking me how I am planning to celebrate St Patrick's Day. Well the days of heading to a busy pub in Dublin or London or attending a rainy tractor parade in County Clare  have long since gone but I do intend to cook a very green dish and might be tempted to enjoy a few drinks and some lively  music at my tiny local Breton bar!

It is absolutely amazing how the Irish Saint managed to get himself celebrated throughout the world even in the remotest of places! From Jewell in Kansas to St Goueno in Brittany there are plans to do something special and not at all religious! The festival usually centres around people getting together and enjoying a drink but not necessarily just drinking. Here in France there are concerts and ceílí's (Paris ) and cinema screenings of Irish films (one of our local towns Guingamp is showing Ken Loach's "The Wind that Shakes the Barley"). In Cannes they are lighting up their town hall green!

So what am I planning to cook? Nettle Pottage! There is a long history of nettles being used in Ireland not just in soups but in oat cakes and Colcannon. Nettles are a healthy vegetable full of iron. Listed in the famous 15th century Irish manuscript "Leabhar Mhíc Cárthaig Riabhaígh" at Lismore Castle is an incident which took place way back in 540AD where St Colm Cille meets a woman harvesting nettles for her pottage! She goes on to explain that this is her diet until her cow calved when she would have milk, cream, butter and cheese again! One wonders if the Saint stayed to sample the dish or whether he used one of his miracles to enhance the taste of absent butter! The story certainly stood the test of time! All good chefs know what a miracle product butter is!!

Ingredients:

45g butter
Dash of vegetable oil
275g chopped potatoes (praties)
100g chopped onions
100g chopped leeks
3 cloves garlic
150g chopped nettles (previously blanched)
1 litre chicken stock
150g milk
salt and pepper to taste
Knob of extra butter to serve

Method

Melt butter in a pot with a dash of vegetable oil. Add the onions, garlic and leeks stirring frequently. Add the chopped praties along with the stock and cook for ten minutes. Add the nettles and two minutes later add the milk or cream and season to taste. Don't overcook as you will ruin the lovely colour of the pottage. Serve immediately with a knob of butter (or some sour cream or cremé fraiche). Enjoy St Patrick's Day whatever you eat or drink!




Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Cheese Balls

Visiting a neighbour for Sunday lunch recently and I was pleasantly impressed by the addition of cheese balls to the canapé repertoire. In one sense this for me is a throwback dish to my student days and I had forgotten just how  decadently delicious they are especially with the nice tomato chili dip!

You will need:

8 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
2 egg whites
2 tbs flour
vegetable oil (for deep frying)
Tomato/Chili sauce (optional for the dip)

Method:
Mix the cheese egg and flour together in a large bowl until a soft dough forms. 
Scoup 2 teaspoons of dough and roll into a ball.
Leave to rest in the fridge for around one hour.
Heat up the deep frying oil to 175 degrees (cent)
Fry cheese balls until golden brown
Drain on paper towels and serve hot with your favourite sauce 




Learn how to make your own cheese!

Most people don’t realise how easy it is to make your own cheese at home.. Yes you have to follow some strict procedures but it is not difficult and the results will amaze your relatives and friends! I recommend you start by making a simple cottage cheese which can be made and served within two days! Here are some we made earlier:



Ingredients:

You will need milk. We recommend using pasteurised milk available from the supermarket. All our cooking courses include some cheese making lessons.We can even show you how to smoke your cheese so that you can develop some delicious unique flavours.



Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Galettes Galore

Today is Shrove Tuesday when people all over the world make pancakes. In Brittany we are in the Pancake capital of France and folk make or eat  Galettes and Crepes here almost  every day and not just on Shrove Tuesday! In fact there is clear evidence that long before bread existed the buckwheat pancake was made on hot stones way back in the megalithic period when the standing cairns of Carnac and other dolmans around Brittany came into being!

The plain Galette is simply a buckwheat pancake made with water, buckwheat flour and salt. You can also add an egg, dash of oil and a little white flour if you wish to make the modern version. For 12 people you will need the following ingredients:

425g Buckwheat flour (Blé noir Sarrasin)
75g white flour
8g salt (sel de Guérande)
1 large egg
Teaspoon of vegetable oil
1 litre of  tap water

Once the galette is made you may add additional ingredients of your choice (ham, eggs, spinach, mushrooms, seafood etc). Or just have the simple pancake with butter as the locals here have done for aeons!

Method: Mix the ingredients in the bowl using your hands or in a mixer. Add the egg first and the water slowly. Once the batter is made leave in a cool place to rest for about an hour. In the meantime you can prepare a hot pan to work on and have additional ingredients (cheese, ham, eggs to add to the cooking pancake once it is made and reheated.








The skill is to pour the batter on the hot plate as thin as possible and then to get a complete circle of cooked galette without burning the dish! Practice makes perfect as they say and Bretons have the skill as they have been doing this dish for hundreds of years!


Friday, 22 February 2019

The quiet months

This is our quiet period when the cooking school is closed and we get on with things we would not normally get a chance to do! One of the projects is the installation of a new veranda off the kitchen. This will allow more flexibility and to accommodate more students. The weather determines the speed of the project as does the skills of the project manager! The project includes not just a new veranda but an additional BBQ area, pizza oven and cold store! As you can see work has began and is in progress.


Foundations
Stone Wall base

Base Veranda outline

Other jobs include working on recipes ( more vegetarian next season), landscaping the garden and creating a forest walk. We have already started harvesting some of our own wood which is great! It has not all been work though. The sunny days of winter can be marvelous times to visit the seaside and enjoy wide open empty spaces just for ourselves:


Port Blanc
Port Blanc
This is a very special time for the Mimosa tree which comes into full blossom. The aroma from the blossoms are heavenly and here is a tree right on the beach near Port Blanc:


We treated ourselves to lunch at one of our local fish restaurants ( Autour du Rocher) at Port Blanc. We had the best oysters Brittany can offer (from Carnac) and a delicious pan fried dover sole. This was accompanied by a delicious bottle of Muscade from our nearest vineyards from the Loire:






The walks along the beach were a joy and our dog Scoobeaudoo made the most of his opportunities to run and chase his ball on the empty beach.