Saturday, 19 December 2015

Quince and Rosemary Jelly

Only a week to go before Christmas and the weather is still warm (14 degrees today!) and sunny. I have spend most of the day outside doing gardening work and the birds (and I!) think it is more springlike than winter! Whilst I am loving the warm weather I know there will be some form of payback to come be it an icy cold January or February or a deluge of giant slugs come summertime! Still for the moment the only thing identifying the pending winter solstice is the short dark evenings and so I am soon drawn back into my cosy kitchen to make some quince jelly! 

Quince is not so easy to find in northern climes although in Brittany it now grows well enough as in parts of Ireland and the UK. The fruit is not sweet when raw and the skin is thick so it is not an immediate endearing fruit to harvest. The trick is knowing how to deal with it because it has the most amazing taste - the Romans and ancient civilisations of the Orient were aware of this delicate perfumed fruit and it was acknowledged as the fruit of the Gods.  It is also exceedingly healthy (if you don't overdo the sugar content) being high in Vitamins C and B2 as well as phosphorus, potassium and potash. Even Shakespeare referred to Quince as the "stomach's comforter"!


900g of quinces cut into small pieces
1 litre water
1 Tbs lemon juice
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
650g sugar


Put the chopped quinces in a pan with the lemon juice. Add the rosemary (keeping a sprig aside for later). Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently until soft.

Remove the rosemary sprigs and pour the pulp and juices into a sterilised straining bag suspended over  a glass bowl overnight. In the morning weigh the jelly juice and adding 450g sugar to every 600ml of juice. Heat the mixture stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow to boil gently for ten minutes or until the jelly reaches setting point.

 Remove from pan, place in sterilised jars and  and allow to cool. Once cool, store in a cool place.

You can serve quince jelly with almost anything where the contrast is required but I find it goes exceedingly well with cheese, quail, and venison.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

BBQ with a hint of turf

It always surprises me that the exquisite aroma of traditional turf (dried peat) whilst well known in Scottish refineries is completely unknown in the international culinary world. However at French Dining School we are slowly spreading the word from our own kitchen. Here one can see, feel and taste the extraordinary results of using just a little turf on beef but the results are just as good on fish, seafood and vegetables.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Gravadlax and Christmas Punch

It's not everyday you are invited to present a food tasting at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but then the Kensington & Chelsea Ladies Association only pick the most interesting  venues for their members. We thought carefully about what to offer and soon realised gravadlax with our very own sauce served on toast would go down a treat. This was especially so with our very  unique Christmas mulled wine served piping hot with raisins and almonds. What a lovely morning we all had! 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Chateau de Cremat

One of the nice things about living in Brittany is that you can simply shut up shop and head south when the temperature drops! Although France is a large country, one can get from Kerrouet to Nice in one day if one sets off early enough! If you are heading south it is important to have a few special places on route to visit and one of these has to be the Chateau de Cremat about 35 minutes drive from Nice (42 Chemin de Crémat, 06200, Nice).

The wines here are some of the best in Provence and the vineyard itself is ancient going right back to Roman times. The wines are unique and hold a worldwide reputation amongst discerning sommeliers. They are not cheap but prices start at 25 Euros a bottle and are are well worth sampling.  There is plenty to do at Crémat as well as wine tasting, there are special music events, weddings, restaurant and shop and of course art galleries and gardens to explore. Give them a call in advance to get their newsletter (+33 (0) 4 92 15 12 15). I promise you will not be disappointed.


Lamp over main entrance

Main entrance to chateau

Front garden

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Places to visit - Dinan

There are lots of interesting places to explore around Brittany but all our students say the little medieval town of Dinan is top of their list. This town has it all - interesting old buildings, nice markets, great restaurants, nice old port and river cruises! Here are some photos I took recently:

Dinan is a short drive from our cooking school and we recommend all our students to visit preferably on market day which is on Thursday. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Féte de la Coquille - Scallop Festival

The north coast of Brittany is world famous for its beauty and the seafood which is harvested and sold throughout France and indeed the world over. Whilst the oysters from Cancale are well known, the scallops from this region are also truly amazing and so we decided to make a short trip up the coast to check out the Scallop festival at the little port of Erquy. We took our new puppy Scoobeaudoo with us as he needed a good workout! 

Erquy Harbour

Selling scallops at 4 euros per kilo

Cleaning the scallops

Preparing the scallops

The scallops taste so good you can eat them raw if you so desired!

Scallops served with spinach in a curry Sauternes sauce


Scallops with spinach served in their shells with a curry Sauternes sauce in one of the most memorable starter dishes you can have at French Dining School! I have never heard so many wows and OMG's one students taste this dish. This is particularly so when students go through the full process of preparing the scallops from their raw pre-shelled state to the final finish and serving.


Three scallops per person (for starter dish).

50g spinach leaves

Sauternes sauce
Half teaspoon mild yellow curry
1 small chopped shallot onion
10cl Sauternes wine
10cl of cream/creme fraiche
250g unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste


Open the scallop shells removing the coral and all connecting tissue. Clean the scallop and set aside. Clean the shells thoroughly and set aside. Fry scallops quickly on a hot pan in clarified butter or on the grill for one minute, They are better undercooked than overdone.

Making the sauce:
Melt a teaspoon of butter in a pan and fry the curry and onion for one minute. Add the Sauternes and let it reduce to half. Whisk in the rest of the butter and add the cream. Don't let it boil. Flavour with salt and pepper. Strain the sauce and serve with the scallops,

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Tossing the salt

All chefs need to be able to toss the pan contents without spilling the beans. At French Dining School we have found the best way to develop this skill is to refer to the ancient Romans who loved to toss their salt! Here we have some of our students practising this ancient art on a beautiful Autumn morning in our courtyard:

Monday, 12 October 2015


Tomatoes taste great this time of year and so here is a last of the summer vine soup which is guaranteed to blow your taste buds right into the stratosphere without costing the earth!

You will need:

10 big ripe tomatoes de seeded and chopped 
1 clove garlic 
1 red onion chopped 
1 cucumber chopped
1 sweet red pepper de seeded and chopped 
2 celery stalks chopped
Tbsp chopped fresh chives to serve
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Salt & pepper to taste
6 drops of Tabasco 

Combine all ingredients and blend to desired consistency. Place in non metal non reactive storage container. Cover tight and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight. Serve ice cold with fresh chives and a few drops of olive oil on top. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Pumpkin Soup

Despite the lovely summer weather, the leaves are on the turn and the evenings are drawing in. The farmers around here are competing with each other over the size of their pumpkins and there is no shortage of the bulbous gourds all over the place, Fortunately pumpkins are very versatile and there is no shortage of recipes available for the adventurous chef. If you tire of pumpkin soup you can make pumpkin bread, or pumpkin ice cream or roast pumpkin or curry pumpkin and there is a whole range of stews and other dishes available. Even pumpkin wine was a great option when I was a student! 

Today we are focusing on pumpkin soup for six persons so here are your ingredients:

600g pumpkin peeled and de-seeded and cut into cubes
25g butter
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 large onion peeled and chopped
1 lr chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Dash of lemon juice
100ml fresh milk
150ml of dry white wine.


Glaze the onions in a pan so they are soft. Add the diced pumpkin, white wine and chicken stock. Boil the ingredients till soft.  Blend the vegetables and stock. Flavour with salt, pepper, lemon juice. Add milk to get the right consistency. Strain and whisk a little butter in the soup before serving. Serve with bread croutons and if desired/optional a drizzle of basil oil. 


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Parmesan Omelette Soufflé

It is amazing what you can do with only four eggs and a little flour, butter, milk and cheese! An omelette soufflé with Parmesan cheese serves 3-4 people and with a little salad or vegetables you have a full on main meal. 

4 large organic eggs
40g flour
250ml milk
60g butter (40g in omelette 20g in pan)
100g Parmesan (70g grated rest shavings 
Salt & Pepper


Preheat oven to 210 degrees 
Heat milk and butter together. Break eggs and separate yokes from whites into two bowls. Mix yokes with 2/3 of the flour. Add hot milk and butter then rest of flour and finally the remainder of the milk. Add the Parmesan with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk the egg whites with a little salt and add to the mixture. Heat a tefal pan (26 cm diameter) then melt butter and pour the soufflé on the pan. Let it set. Place the pan in the oven for 8 minutes and remove when golden. Sprinkle the Parmesan shavings on top and serve. Absolutely delicious and so light! 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Vannes and the Gulf of Morbihan

We are always on the lookout for new places to visit close to us and yesterday we discovered the beautiful island of Berder right in the Gulf of Morbihan. It is a island paradise with extraordinary beauty. Private coves, forests and sandy beaches with a chateaux and lots of flowers too. 

 There is a passenger ferry to the island but we found a quick access route at low tide
At low tide most afternoons you can have lunch in the friendly bar adjacent to the access route and watch the waters recede as you enjoy your glass of wine or beer!

As soon as you set foot on the island you know you have landed somewhere magical. It may be the old pines or the amazing variety of fauna and flora which exists on this frost free terrain.

An island surrounded by hundreds of other islands and so secluded you keep thinking you are the first ever to land here! My only regret was we did not pack a picnic and a kayak. To get to the Isle of Berder takes 75 minutes from Kerrouet and it is a simple drive there and back. You might be wishing you had more time to explore the other islands but this is certainly a good start.

Chateau de Berder could make a lovely location for our cooking school!! 

Friday, 18 September 2015

Lobster Bisque, Beef Wellington and almond cake

Students started with Lobster bisque 

Followed by beef Wellington in a port wine sauce:

For dessert tonight students prepared an almond cake with white chocolate and liquorice:

Mussel soup and Caesar salad

For lunch today students prepared a lovely mussel soup for starters 

Followed by a delicious Caesar salad

Now off to walk a few miles in lovely rural countryside! 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Wild mushroom Risotto, Skate Wing, Strawberries

Students prepared a wild mushroom risotto for starters tonight:

Followed by pan fried skate wing in lemon, parsley and capers:

Our students prepared a delicious caramelised strawberry dish with home made poppyseed ice cream for dessert:

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Pumpkin soup, frikadeller and tiramisu

Students were busy in the kitchen tonight  making walnut bread with rosemary as well as pumpkin soup

followed by frikadeller meat balls with potato, cucumber and cucumber salad

With an very seductive tiramisu to finish

Parmesan omelette and warm smoked salmon

Lunch today saw students prepare a very light fluffy Parmesan omelette for starters

Followed by an amazing warm smoked salmon with dill sauce and salad leaves