Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Last weekend we escaped Paris for the day to visit our friends Lise and Franck in Verdon a tiny village, more a gathering of houses as there isn't even a café/bar, in the champagne region. It was a cool clear day and we drove through the valleys, tinged with autumn colours to their country home. Their house is set in a large plot of land that gently slopes down to a stream. They have a vegetable garden, a quince tree, now you know why they are my friends, and apple and cherry tree, blackcurrant bushes and a medlar tree, more about medlars later. There are also several roses bushes covered in rose hips, églantines or gratte-cul, as they are more colloquially known in French. Franc has made some rose hip jam, and has promised me a jar.
The ground floor of their house is composed of two large rooms, the kitchen/dinning room and the living room with a huge wooden beam running the length of the two rooms and at either end are wood burning stoves. These stoves not only heat their house but Franck and Lise use them for cooking too. For lunch they attacked a recipe from my book, cassoulet cooked slowly on one of those stoves and here is the result.
The first photo shows the whole pot and the second a healthy serving. It was as delicious as it looks and, best of all, they said not only was it easy to make, they had fun making. What more could a cookbook writer ask?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

More Fat In Paris

If you are a foie gras lover this photo will make you swoon. Our friends Matt and Victoria, who we met at the Epicurean Classic in Traverse City, Michigan, stopped in Paris on their way home from the Frankfurt book fair. We'd planned this dinner in September at the Classic, Matt asking simply for good Burgundy and foie gras. Well that was easy, we chose Le Régalade, a restaurant close to our apartment in the 14th. This is a good, friendly restaurant (many of the staff speak English) with an excellent menu at 32 euros. Plus, there are always special dishes available for a supplement. As it is autumn, these included game, mushrooms and this wonderful foie gras. Also joining us for dinner was Victoria's charming brother Tom, who was experiencing Paris for the first time. It took us a while to make our choices but sautés of cepes, girolles (which are chanterelles in English) game pate studded with foie gras and this magnificent whole roasted foie gras were our choices for entrées.
Matt and my husband shared the foie gras (it was for 2) and joy of joys it arrived perched on a sautéed thick slice of quince - notice how it stays yellow when cooked quickly - a perfect foil for the rich foie gras.
I have a recipe for sautéed foie gras on gingered vanilla quince in my book FAT. I've only tried roasting a whole foie gras once - with disastrous results. I was left with a tiny liver and a pan of fat! Of course I thought it was my fault or bad recipe instructions but I have since learnt that the older the liver the more fat it releases. So when I try again I'll be sure that I have a very fresh liver. Until then I am happy just to walk down the street to La Régalade and enjoy it accompanied by a glass of Jurançon.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Husbands who cook

Look at this amazing pot of choucroute or sauerkraut, if you're German. My husband made it for dinner the other night. We had our friends François and Caroline, and the couple who ran the local charcuterie until they retired a year ago. My husband Haralds is a good cook, he first wooed me with a lobster dinner, and choucroute is one of his specialties. The roots of his recipe are Latvian, he claims it's his mother's recipe but I doubt she would recognise it in its current incarnation. The only problem when he cooks is that he often makes so much we are eating the same dish for days. This time he made a perfect amount - enough for our dinner and for him to eat the next day.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Amazing Quinces

Just look at these two photographs - the before and after.

Quince is one of my favourite fruits - when raw most varieties are inedible, dry and astringent. While the skin of quinces turns from green to yellow and their flesh softens slightly as they ripen they don't loose their astringency, for that they need cooking. Cooked quinces not only change texture, becoming soft and edible, this autumnal fruit like autumn leaves, dramatically changes colour, turning dark ruby red.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Guess what I ate?

On Wednesday night Haralds and I met our friends Eric and Marie-line at a restaurant in the shadow of Notre Dame. You make you way through the crowds of tourists perusing the menus of the Greek restaurants just off Boulevard St Michel and then suddenly you're in the tiny quiet street of Saint Julien-le-Pauvre that runs into the church of the same name. And there is Ribouldingue a restaurant specializing in offal.
It was not my first visit the restaurant was recommended to me by my friend Bénédict who runs a great website miam-miam and is an expert in all things gastronomic. Perhaps I should offer a prize for anyone who can guess just what exactly is in the photo - it was my entrée. Although I've been tempted to buy them from my tripier in my local market, I haven't as I don't know how to cook them. So I thought why not try them the I'll know what I am aiming for. Like many "odd bits" these anima parts are euphemistically called rognons blancs, they are nothing like kidneys or more correctly animelles. In North America we call them prairie oysters or as Gordon Ramsey would say - bollocks!
They were delicious, mildly flavoured and although donated by a ram, tasted more of veal than sheep. The texture was soft and almost aerated, like a good boudin blanc. I can't wait to try cooking some. Watch for some photos of them raw - much less appetizing.
I followed my
rognons blancs with a more everyday dish, tripe (on the left) and my husband had sweetbreads with parsnip purée, that's it on the right.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Paris and Fat

Well it's official, I just not a good blogger. I do have an excuse - last Thursday I gave a talk on fat at Type books on the Danforth in Toronto. It was co-sponsored by Cook's Place and brave fat lovers came out in the pouring rain to hear me. They also risked missing the party leaders (Canadian) or the vice-presidential (American) debate.
For once I was glad to be over 50! A young lady in the group told me that she'd grown up eating nothing but vegetable oils and fake fats - oh dear! No wonder the younger generation packs on the pounds.
The next day I left for Paris, the one in France not Texas. And yes you guessed it, the first thing I did on arriving here was eat a freshly baked baguette slathered with good French butter. Now that I have been here a few days I am beginning to settle in - getting used to croissants for breakfast, slipping into cafés and knocking back a kir in the afternoon and going for dinner at 9pm. So I promise to try and blog more frequently to keep you up to date with la vie française.

Just to whet your appetite, look at the photograph below of the wonderful fatty lunch I ate yesterday. My husband and I had been at BHV (Le Bazar de l'Hôtel de la Ville) looking for a part to repair our shower. Renting helps pay our Paris apartment bills but it also means that for the first few days we are trying to find where the last tenants have put things and doing little repairs.
The basement of BHV is my husband's favourite store in Paris, it's the hardware section and he can spend hours just looking. Every time I descend those stairs I just want to scream. Well we found the shower part without too much trouble and then as we were hungry we went for lunch.

My husband spotted Le Fer à Cheval a few blocks east of BHV and we managed to snag a table just inside the door.

Now perhaps you can make out a salad in the background that was husband's choice. Yes it had some greenery, but when the dish arrived, that greenery was hidden under slices of cured ham, smoked duck breast and toasts topped with melted chèvre cheese! I was more upfront with a platter of charcuterie, which included cooked and cured ham, cured sausage, pâté and rillettes, served with baguette and butter, of course. I had a glass of Morgon, I have become an amateur of Beaujolais, and my husband drank a beer called Pichon but more of that later.