Yes yes, I know…… it's been ages since the last blog post!!  But that's not to say I have not been meaning to write.  It's been busy busy with the catering – the more events I do, the more I get. Aaaahhh! The power of 'word of mouth'.

Currently stealing a few days at our home in France where it always seems easier, in the peacefulness of our little hamlet, to gather my thoughts and develop ideas, away from the busy routine of life in the UK.  

I've recently been inspired by Raymond Blanc and his Kitchen Secrets series on the BBC.  The other day we had a friend over for dinner and I made a Paris Brest dessert having seen Raymond create his amazing Croquembouche wedding cake.  Croquembouche is a tall conical structure of tiny choux buns assembled on discs of nougatine and decorated with spun caramelised sugar.  Paris Brest is a choux pastry ring, sprinkled with flaked almonds and filled with Creme Patisserie. It was created by a French Chef in 1891 to commemorate the Paris to Brest Cycle Race, the circle representing the wheels on a bike.  

What a versatile pastry choux is? Simple to make too. A favourite canape that I make is Chorizo Gougeres – tiny choux balls with finely chopped chorizo in the dough.  I am setting myself a challenge to make a Croquembouche for my step-daughter Gemma's birthday in June. She's also a huge fan of France and all things French.  The Paris Brest turned out very well (forgot to photograph it though – durrrrr!). Last time I made one of those was 36 years ago when I used to work through the recipes in a cookery book my Mum had bought me – 'The Love of Cooking' – I still have it, can't bear to part with it but it's VERY dated now.  I still turn to those early recipes though, even though my cookery book collection has grown significantly.

What also impresses me about Raymond Blanc is his mission to find the best, freshest and most appropriate varieties of ingredients.  I'm reading his autobiography – 'A Taste of my Life' – where he describes how he and his team of chefs at Le Manoir au Quat Saisons conducted many taste tests and experiments to find the perfect variety of tomato to make 'Tomato Essence', something that was inspired by a tomato salad his Mum used to make when he was a kid. Such dedication to cuisine! The book is a very interesting read and is littered with recipes and tips.  

How I wish that I had the facility to grow my own fruit and vegetables. It's impossible for us because we divide our time so much between our two homes. But here in France, in our little hamlet, it seems that most people 'grow their own' and, at this time of year they are all busy in their gardens and allotments, digging, planting, weeding, etc…..  Luckily for us, they are very generous people and we have often been surprised with a box of freshly harvested vegetables, a bowl of the sweetest strawberries or a bunch of freshly picked herbs.  There's nothing like eating produce that has just been havested.

It would also be lovely to keep my own chickens again…..something I did when I lived on a small holding in a 'previous life'……..but that's something I can put on the wish list for when I retire!

Now I'm off to get my head around an exciting menu for a Royal Wedding Dinner Party we are hosting next Friday…………

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