Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Broccoli with Caramelized Onions & Pine Nuts

News headlines today - Eating broccoli could prevent the most common form of arthritis! So now we know what our wise grandparents always knew  - eat your greens (especially cabbage, broccoli and sprouts!) if you want to stay young and healthy. Here is a lovely dish to get you going but remember never overcook your greens -

You will need:

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion, (about 1 medium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Method:
  1. Toast pine nuts in a medium dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
  1. Add oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, adjusting heat as necessary, until soft and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
  1. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the nuts, onion, vinegar and pepper; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Here is the article link for your information:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Tomatoe & Basil Salad

It's that time of year when your greenhouse can be overrun with tomatoes! This year Brittany has had the best summer in 7 years and so everything has blossomed to excess including our tomato plants. What better time to concentrate on some of the non cooking recipes of summertime and this is one wonderful dish. All you need to ensure is that you have baked some nice bread earlier in the day! This is a very healthy dish as well as tasty and if you don't believe me, just take a look at this website which praises the health benefits of basil:

You will need: 

20 small tomatoes
1 shallot
1 handful basil leaves
½ handful oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic
1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on a large serving plate. Slice the shallot into thin rings, chop the garlic as finely as you can, and scatter over the dish. Roll the basil leaves into little tubes and slice them thinly to cut it into thin strips and throw them over the salad with the whole oregano leaves.
Immediately before serving, drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over, and season with salt and plenty of pepper. Crusty fresh bread will come in handy to mop up the juices. 
You don't need to add anything else to this dish but you could apply some mozzarella cheese if you have a longing for protein or have some very hungry guests! Oh and a nice cool bottle of Sancerre will complete the magic and ensure you don't overdo it on the health side! Enjoy.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Stir Fried Cabbage Salad with Mushrooms & Quinoa

Cabbage Salad Bowl

Cabbage is often regarded as a bit of a boring vegetable. However nothing could be further from the truth. Its just what we do to it that can so easily ruin it! Boil any brassica for more than 10 minutes and you are left with a tasteless sulphurous smelling dish. I like cabbage for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a very healthy vegetable with amazing properties see here: It is also very helpful for those who wish to slim being low on the calorie front. It is so very flexible you can match it with many different ingredients and even serve it as a light salad in summertime. This is a recipe (for 6 persons) I developed over the last few weeks and I think you will love it for both health properties of all the ingredients as well as for texture and taste. Let me know what you think!

You will need:

I fresh green cabbage
2 Charlotte onions
1 clove garlic
100g pearl barley
100g quinoa
200g button mushrooms thinly sliced
1 fresh chili
250ml balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
Tablespoon of sake (optional)


Wash the cabbage thoroughly removing any leaves which may be damaged. Once cleaned, roll up the leaves like a tight thick cigar and using a sharp vegetable knife, cut the leaves into very fine shreds. Place the shredded cabbage into a glass container. Finely chop the onions and garlic into shreds and add to the cabbage. Sprinkle the cabbage with the balsamic vinegar toss well and leave for 30 minutes. Boil the pearl barley for 30 minutes and once cooked strain and let cool. Boil the quinoa for 10 minutes, strain and let cool. Place a large skillet on the gas and raise the heat to maximum for a few minutes. Using an oil of your choice (I prefer coconut oil) add the cabbage, sake, balsamic vinegar and chili stir frying for about four minutes. Remove from skillet, strain and add to mixing bowl and let cool. Add the thinly sliced mushrooms to the skillet and stir fry till soft (about 4 minutes stirring often). Remove and add to the cabbage in the mixing bowl. Add the barley, mushrooms and quinoa to the mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper as required. This dish is to be served cold as a salad but is equally good served hot.

Special Offer Deal in September

Students busy at French Dining School

We are as busy as bees this week with a full program of cooking but I thought I would just tip you off about a very special deal we have coming up next month. Any persons booking a course for the week 9-13 September 2013 will get the the full five day cooking course for only Euros 500 instead of Euros 925!!! This offer is only open to new bookings, does not include accommodation (add an extra 250 euros for that!). Places are limited so book up fast to avail of this fantastic offer.

We start at 10am with introductions, course program, safety issues (use of knives etc). We discuss each daily menu before we commence preparation and actual cooking. We also make our chicken stock for the week ahead.
Starter: Bruschetta on toasted bread
Main: Salmon fish cakes on a garden salad with homemade sauce remoulade
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Starter: Artichoke in a citrus soup
Main: Langoustine stuffed chicken leg with mushroom sauce
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Dessert: Panna Cotta with fresh summer fruits
Starter: Gazpacho
Main: Turkey breast marinated in soya, ginger and chili
served on a salad with toasted pine kernels
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Starter: Grilled scallops with endive soup and chives
Main: Veal fillet with basil sauce, crème fraiche potatoes and rosemary roasted vegetables
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Dessert: Lemon cake with cointreau crème fraiche
Starter: Small tomato pizza
Main: Warm smoked fish on a salad with horseradish cream
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Starter: Grilled Langoustines with garlic butter
Main: “Frikadeller” Danish styled meat balls with
potato salad and cucumber salad
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Dessert: Tiramisu
Visit to local food market where we will taste Galettes
Starter: Mushroom risotto
Main: Pan fried skate wing with lemon, capers, parsley & new potatoes
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Dessert: Caramelized strawberries served with
Cinnamon and a poppy seed ice cream
Starter: Mussel soup with saffron
Main: Caesar Salad
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Graduation Dinner
Starter: Lobster bisque
Main: Beef Wellington with oven baked vegetables
Cheese: Selection of French cheeses
Dessert: Poached peach with a sabayon sauce and fresh raspberries

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sole Meuniere

Brittany has the longest coastal stretch of any department in France so it is not surprising that fish and sea food are a key ingredient in Briton cuisine. Most visitors to Brittany are struck by the variety of seafood available in the food markets whether it be mussels, oysters, lobsters crabs, sea snails and numerous cockles and periwinkles but lets not forget fish! If you get a chance make your way on a Saturday morning to "Marche de Liece" in Rennes, the capital of Brittany for a seafood feast!  Having said that you just can't beat simple fresh fish and sole meuniere is one of the easiest to prepare.

You will need:

6 sole fillets 
8 tb salted butter
1 cup flour
1 lemon juiceSea saltFresh black pepper10 sprigs fresh parsley

Bunch of fresh chives cut fine


Remove the black skin from the soles. Chop the parsley sprigs, discard the stems. Season fillets with salt and pepper.Spread the flour in a plate. Dredge fillets in flour, shaking off any excess flour. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add a sole fillet or if the skillet is large enough, place 2 fillets at the same time. Cook over high heat for 4 minutes. Turn the fillet and cook on the other side for 4 minutes again. Set aside and keep fillets warm. Sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley. Cook the other sole fillets the same way. Add butter if needed.
Melt the remaining butter in the skillet. When brown, remove from heat and place the sole fillets.
Garnish with lemon slices and chives. Sole Meuniere is excellent in combination with potatoes, salad, vegetables or rice. Serve with a nice cool Riesling, Chablis, Sancerre or a white wine of your choice.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Mushroom Risotto

I cooked mushroom risotto for a group of five friends on Saturday and I had forgotten how wonderful a dish it is. A number of people asked me for the recipe afterwards so I thought I really should add it here. It is one of those dishes people tend to put off because you do have to pay some attention during the cooking process but believe me it is real easy dish to make and well worth the effort! Prep time is 10 min; Cooking time 20 mins.

  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 to 2 pounds mushrooms
  • 2-3 shallots, roughly diced
  • 1½ cup risotto rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine or cooking wine
  • 3 tablespoons parsley of your choice or chives, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, more or less to taste
  1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over medium heat.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet to high heat. Add mushrooms to dry skillet and stir as the mushrooms release their juices. Turn heat to medium-high and continue to stir until juice starts to be absorbed and mushrooms are browned. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and continue cooking about 1 minute. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Stir in the shallots. Cook about 1 minute or until shallots begin to soften. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed.
  6. Return heat to medium-high and using a mug or measuring cup add between ½-3/4 cup broth to the rice (I added ¾ cup), and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding the hot broth one scoopful at a time, stirring continuously, making sure the liquid becomes absorbed before adding more broth. When you've got almost all the broth added, begin turning the heat down to medium if necessary. After about 15 to 20 minutes, the rice will be al dente.
  7. Turn off the heat and stir in the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. (At this point, if you want a vegan meal, this is done and perfectly tasty.)
  8. Add the butter, parsley or chives and parmesan (or let your diners add the cheese themselves) .

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bordier's Butter

Bordier's Butter 

When it comes to pleasure, Jean-Yves Bordier knows a thing or two. Ruddy faced and cheerful, this trim, fifty-ish Breton with permanent laugh crinkles around his eyes makes what many consider to be the best butter in all of France. It’s a skill he learned from his father and grandfather, and to him it’s a matter of enjoyment. It’s also a matter of fat, and Bordier believes that, despite a slowly developing fear of fat among the French, more people might relax and enjoy his product if only they would learn how to eat it properly.
    According to Bordier, the best way to consume butter is to place a small chunk on a piece of bread—or on the tip of a knife, finger or fork—and slip it gently onto the tongue. There, it begins to melt immediately, flooding the mouth with flavors that evoke spring flowers, warm sun, sea air and lightly toasted hazelnuts.
    Talk to just about any French person, and he or she will tell you how much they love the stuff. “Butter. I love butter first thing in the morning when I spread it on my bread,” says Guy Savoy, one of Paris’s most vaunted three-star chefs. He considers Bordier’s butter so good that he puts it on the table of his restaurant. “To me, butter is that tartine with blueberry jam; it’s the afternoon snack with chocolate; it’s the finish of a sauce. Certain recipes simply cannot be made without butter.”
    My friend and neighbor Edith Leroy, a dedicated gourmande, is extremely picky about her butter. “I buy only organic, churned butter, and my favorite way to eat it is spread thick on a slab of pain au levain, or sourdough bread, with my coffee in the morning,” she says. Neither Savoy nor Leroy mentions letting a small chunk slide around on the tongue, but that’s all right with Bordier.
    At more than 17 pounds per capita per year, French consumption of butter is higher than that of any other people in the world. If you visit an average French supermarket, you are likely to find at least 15 brands and more than 30 varieties including unsalted, lightly salted, fully salted, fermier and baratte (see sidebar). Choose any one and it will be more delicious than just about any other butter you’ve ever tasted.
    Terroir has a lot to do with it. The soil here is well taken care of and produces feed that makes cows happy, so the milk they produce is rich and delicious. Other possible factors are the size of French farms and herds—both tend to be small—and the ban on bovine growth hormones.
    France has traditionally been divided into a butter half (the north) and an olive-oil half (the south). The boundaries are blurring, however, and olive oil is encroaching into northern kitchens as butter consumption drops. Still, the French remain fixated on butter, and only a country with such a fixation could have spawned a Bordier.
    He is so passionate about his butter that each carefully wrapped piece purchased in his tiny Saint-Malo fromagerie is cut from a freshly made motte, a large mound that is shaped by hand with wooden paddles. He ships to customers around the country on the honor system and, because he believes in the personal touch, regularly visits most of the stores and restaurants that carry his product. On weekends, he can be found at local and regional fairs passing out bread topped with a thick slice of butter (placed, not spread), and generally preaching the gospel of good butter, both his and that of his more industrial colleagues.
    The biggest difference between Bordier’s butter and theirs is a subtle combination of flavor and texture. “My butter is made slowly,” he says as he moves neatly around his laboratory, where white-coated employees are using small, ridged wooden paddles to turn mounds of butter into fanciful shapes destined for some of the greatest tables in the world. He takes a moment to joke with them, solve a problem or two and make a few pats of butter himself, as if to prove that he can still do it. “Industrially made butter—which I’m not criticizing, mind you, because it is delicious too—is made quickly, in a rather violent process that has to do with rapidly changing its temperature,” he says.
    To achieve the quality of his butter, Bordier uses nothing more than time-honored techniques and the best possible cream he can get, which comes from select herds of Holstein and Norman cows that graze in pastures not far from Rennes, in Brittany. That the milk is organic is extremely important to Bordier but not something that he feels should be promoted. “I don’t advertise that my butter is organic,” he says. “I don’t think it’s necessary. I think the only labels that should be on foods are those that indicate that they are not organic. After all, organic is the best, so we shouldn’t have to point out that we’re making the best. What needs pointing out is when things aren’t the best.”
    The milk is taken to a dairy and skimmed of cream. The cream matures for about 36 hours so that its flavor can develop, then is churned for about an hour and a half in special machines reserved for Bordier. At that point, the butter has separated from the lait ribot, or buttermilk, which is drained from the churn and replaced with ice water. The butter is churned for another hour or so before being transported to Bordier’s butter-making laboratory. There, it is kneaded by a wooden cylinder at a very slow speed for 15 to 30 minutes. “In the summer, when the cows are grazing on grass, the butter is naturally tender and requires less kneading,” Bordier points out. “In the winter it requires more.”
    A young man supervising the kneading process sprinkles fine sea salt over the golden mass that is being slowly folded and rolled in front of him. “This type of kneading uses traditional techniques, the same gestures my grandfather used when he made butter,” Bordier says. “In today’s jargon, I call kneading ‘improvement.’ I’m taking wonderful butter and improving it through slow, careful kneading. The salt ‘attacks’ the butter and chases water from it; the kneading takes it to a level of tender suppleness that industrial butter makers cannot afford to achieve.”
    Still, while no one else makes butter the way Bordier does, the panoply and quality of butter choices available to the French consumer is mind-bogglingly delicious. And despite the perennial French concern with their figures and their weight—and the encroachment of olive oil into the inner sanctum of the French kitchen—butter retains its special place in France as a favorite food and a favorite ingredient. 
Fromagerie Jean-Yves Bordier is open Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. and 3:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. In August, open Sunday and Monday mornings. 9 rue de l’Orme, Saint-Malo (inside the old city); Tel. 33/2-99-40-88-79.

Home Made Lavender Lemonade

Lavender is one of my favourite flowers. We have it growing all over the front of the house and this time of year it is in full bloom. Meadows of lavender tricker memories of Provence but with changing climates it is not unusual to see lavender fields in Brittany now! So in this hot sunny weather I thought I might introduce an addition to our elderflower cordial. Home made lavender lemonade is absolutely delicious and  so easy to make:

You will need:

A small handful of freshley picked and rinsed lavender flowers
1 cup of white granulated sugar
2 cups of boiling water
2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of boiling water
2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of cold water
some ice


Brush the lavender flowers from their stems into a glass dish. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the 2 cups of boiling water, stir and allow to infuse for up to three hours. Sive the lavender infused syrup and pour into a large serving pitcher. Add the lemon juice, tasting as you go to ensure the desired taste. Add ice, slices of lemon and a sprig of lavender and serve.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Cycling Holidays in Brittany for the Gourmet Traveller

One of the joys of  Brittany is the marvelous cycling opportunities available. There are miles of safe cycle routes which will take you through beautiful countryside and unspoilt medieval villages. Combine your cooking holiday with a cycling holiday and you have the best of both worlds. Here is a route which takes you through one of my favorite routes from St Malo down the Rance Valley to Dinan and the lovely city of Rennes. A fairly flat route through some splendid medieval citadels including lively St Malo and colourful, charming Dinan. A cycle path follows the scenic River Rance and Ille et Vilaine canal to Rennes, the grandiose capital of Brittany. After the fascinating old town of Vitré and the medieval chateau of Fougeres, another cycle path takes the route of a former railway towards France's second most iconic tourist spot, the ancient and extraordinary island of Mont St Michel. A third cycle route, often on dykes, crosses beautiful and blissfully flat marshland. Next is a stunning coast road with a string of windmills and pristine sandy beaches. Once you have had your fill of oysters in Cancale, it's back to St Malo for crepes or you could spend a few days at French Dining School enjoying some of the best food of your life!

A. St Malo - walled citadel - most visitors head for the characterful, imposing and bustling old town, which is full of restaurants, shops and hotels. Accommodation may be easier to find and cheaper outside the walls. The route takes the beautiful Rance valley to Dinan, passing through the delightful and un-spoilt riverside village of St Suliac (with camping). Turn left at Taden to join the cycle path that runs along the edge of the Rance. Tourist information, hotels and campsites. 21 miles to Dinan

B. Dinan - late medieval walled citadel - From your riverside path, the small and beautiful port of Dinan comes into view. With its ancient bridge, the Pont Gothique, it makes an ideal lunch or drink stop. On top of the hill, right next to the river is the citadel. Consider leaving your bike in the port and take a short walk up a steep, colourful, cobbled street into a quaint and enchanting town of half timbered houses. If your muscles allow, climb the ancient clock tower for panoramic views. Dinan is every bit as spectacular as St Malo but quieter. Tourist information, hotels, hostel and campsite. 20 miles to Tinténiac.

From Dinan, pick up the Voie Verte cycle route number 3, just south of the Pont Gothique. The first few hundred yards through woodland are quite narrow and a bit bumpy but then it becomes a well surfaced towpath of the River Rance. The river later turns into the Ille et Vilaine canal.

C. Tinténiac and Hedé - pleasant small towns - Less than a couple of miles from the canal, they offer food and lodging. There are some impressive and sometimes quirky lock keepers cottages along this stretch of the canal and if you are lucky you may spot a red squirrel. Fellow cyclists are almost as rare as the squirrels in all but high season. Tourist information and municipal campsite at Tinténiac. Alternative campsite between the two towns. Hotel in Hedé.  29 miles to Rennes

The canal path takes you right to the heart of Rennes but if you don't like big cities or if you just want to cut off a corner, leave the canal 7 miles north at Beton (hotel here).

D. Rennes - pleasant city, built to impress - Rennes has wide boulevards, spacious squares and imposing buildings. Its old quarter, north of the river is lively and full of character. Cyclists are quite well looked after with many marked cycle lanes making for an easier city than many to negotiate. Tourist information, hotels and campsite. 26 miles to Vitré.

From Rennes to Acigné the road is fairly busy but then becomes quieter. The route passes through Champeaux with an impressive well in a paved square.

E. Vitré - well preserved medieval market town - It's surprising Vitré isn't better known by tourists. It's a welcoming place with a turreted fairytale castle and countless atmospheric streets. Even the municipal campsite has some impressive 19th century stone fortifications scattered through the pitches. Tourist information and hotels. Campsite 1.5 miles south of town. 18 miles to Fougères.

F. Fougères - old town boasting the largest medieval castle in Europe - The town is built on two levels separated by imposing granite cliffs. The public gardens overlooking the castle and the medieval part of town are spectacular. Tourist information, hotels and campsite. 19 miles to Antrain

There is a hill to get out of Fougeres but you soon pick up a cycle track which takes the path of a disused railway all the way to Antrain.

G. Antrain - End of the cycle track. The route then follows a generally flat river route through the beautiful Sougéal marshes. Campsite. 9 miles to Pontorson

H. Pontorson - quiet, small town, useful base for Mont St Michel - Tourist information, hotels, hostel and campsite. 5.5 miles to Mont St Michel

A cycle route along the River Couesnon starts from the town or behind the campsite and youth hostel. At the time of writing it was under construction with a gravelly surface, but still useable. A wide road runs across the causeway to the Mont St Michel, suitable for cyclists

I. Mont St Michel - hugely popular and magnificent fortified island topped with an imposing 8th century abbey. An entire town with a jumble of winding streets and the spectacular abbey, site of medieval pilgrimages, is crammed onto an outcrop of rocks. The whole rises to an impressive eighty metres and commands an imposing position in the bay between Brittany and Normandy. Tourist information and hotels. 27 miles to Cancale.

In contrast to the buzz of Mont St Michel, the reclaimed marshland land to the west, criss-crossed by dikes, is a haven of rural tranquillity and makes for perfect, unhurried cycling. After taking the bridge at Beauvoir, you can either follow the cycle signs to Cancale, which routes via a bumpy cycle path, or find your own way through the lanes. Look out for the many windmills along the coast road after Cherrueix.

J. Cancale - seaside resort and important oyster growing area. Even if you don't like oysters, the town is charming in its own right. To the north is the windswept and incredibly scenic Point du Grouin. The road runs along the coast and offers stunning views to the north. Tourist information, hotels, hostel and campsites. 15 miles to St Malo.

Potato & Artichoke Salad

This is a great back up for the summertime garden BBQ. Simple and easy to make before your guests arrive and keep in the fridge till serving time.

You will need:
1kg of small new potatoes
Half cup of finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons of apple vinegar
2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Quarter teaspoon of black pepper
4 fresh artichoke hearts
1 cup fresh mayonnaise
Half cup of pimiento stuffed olives - sliced
3 tablespoons of fresh finely snipped chives or parsley.

Boil the potatoes in their skins. Peel and cut into halves or quarters. Combine the spring onion with the vinegar, water, salt and pepper and pour evenly over the potatoes, tossing to mix well. Cut the artichokes into quarters, add to potatoes and pour over the fresh mayonnaise. Sprinkle with sliced olives and fresh herbs (parsley or chives). You may also serve this dish with a spoonful of sour cream if you wish.