Saturday, November 28, 2009
It's a mere hour's drive from Bosgouet to the centre of Paris and we are staying with great friends from Australia in Montmartre. I have not been to Montmartre since our honeymoon in 1990 and am very keen to see the changes that have taken place.
Raspberry and Coconut muffins
125 grams butter
275 grams sugar
2 organic eggs
125 mls milk
185 grams self raising flour
70 grams roasted coconut
200 grams frozen rasperries
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and milk to a smooth batter.
Add sifted flour, coconut then fold in raspberries.
Spoon batter into muffin moulds and bake at 180° for 25 mins
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Gilles Tournadre Restaurant Gill, RouenRestaurant Gill is one of my favourite restaurants for a celebration. This 2 michelin star restaurant in Rouen is all about fresh seasonal produce at the hands of master chef Gilles Tournadre. See below for an interview with Gilles.
I was predestined to become an executive chef. The son and grandson of a pastry cook, I was already used to the strict requirements of patisserie. Ordinary cooking was almost easier...
When I was little I was already an enthusiast. Not for anything in the world would I have missed the cult cooking broadcast of the day: with Raymond Oliver and Catherine Langeais. A daily feast!
When I was 16 I went to the Couronne in Rouen, the property on the Place du Vieux Marché. I served a three-year apprenticeship there, learning the hard way. After that I embarked on a tour of France to complete my training, finishing up with a job as chef at the Château d’Audrieu in Calvados. In 1984, I returned home to my native town. I opened a little restaurant on rue de Saint Nicolas, right next to the cathedral. My wife Sylvie and I together decided to enlarge our business by moving to the banks of the river. There overlooking the Seine we and our loyal team give of our very best.
I can sum up my cuisine in two concepts: freshness and respect for produce.
In the Eighties, a dinner at the Négresco in Nice, when Jacques Maximin was chef there. That’s where I ate my first salmon grilled on just one side with olive oil.
The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
In the Seventies, I was a commis chef in the kitchens of L’Auberge des Templiers in Les Bézards. Deep in conversation with Mme Dépée, I suddenly had to drop my trousers in front of her because two wasps were busy stinging me.
Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Shop at your local market, choose your ingredients carefully and cook them as simply as possible.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The first seed was planted on their honeymoon to Paris. Too occupied with university and careers to have travelled abroad before then, Jane Webster and her husband became enamoured with everything French –the food, the wine, the joie de vivre. A fascination for the country’s historic chateaux was cultivated on subsequent visits and for years the school teacher and dentist by trade, who had renovated houses in Melbourne, dreamt of restoring one of these proud-but-neglected domiciles. Ultimately, it was the fear of regret that saw their sapling fantasy nurtured to full, glorious bloom, culminating in Jane’s debut book, At My French Table.
In 2005, Jane and husband Peter downed tools and moved with their four young children to a flourishing corner of Normandy, immersing themselves in a tiny village near Rouen, where the Francophiles worked on returning ‘Chateau Bosgouet’ to its former 19th-century glory. Embracing the seasonal rhythms of rural France, the family adapted well to the gentle pace of life and a return to simple pleasures: strolling through a serene forest or bustling village market, gathering walnuts or picking blackberries and making something out of them with the kids, hosting children’s parties in the garden, and so on.
On its own, Jane imparts, the chateau was probably not reason enough to relocate their family to the other side of the world, so she mulled over ways to massage her other loves – cooking, hosting and writing – into the mix. “I was always searching for a way to combine everything I loved into a business that would also have the benefits of a lifestyle. The whole format for The French Table really came from writing down all the things that I loved and was quite good at.” The French Table is Jane’s cooking school, run from the chateau in the form of week-long culinary vacations. The itinerary is a giddy fancy for bon vivants – a glimpse at chateau living. The experience includes cooking instruction by established chefs, trips to farmers markets, dining at Michelin-star and notable local restaurants, and meals lovingly prepared using fresh, seasonal produce (including as many of the biblically plump vegetables, fruits and herbs as possible from the chateau’s cornucopian one-acre garden).
Though not a chef herself, Jane is a veritable foodie who studied French gastronomic history and ran a French cafe, La Gare, in Victoria in the early 1990s. As a child, too, she loved cooking and was given free reign of the kitchen. Fast forward to Bosgouet, where Jane set about meeting butchers, fishmongers, bakers, cheesemakers and chefs to garner regional food knowledge for use in her own kitchen. Now, every summer, guest chefs such as Marieke Brugman and Alla Wolf-Tasker (of Lake House renown in Daylesford, Victoria) help bring the flavours of Normandy – think rich cream and butter, apples and pears, pre-sale (salt meadow) lamb and succulent poultry – to Jane’s table.
While the ‘garden of France’ might seem like a natural choice of location for this type of venture, Jane admits that Normandy was chosen for its close proximity to Paris and London. But the region’s strong food tradition sits very comfortably with the thing Jane is most inspired by, what she refers to as ‘lost skills’ – the things our grandparents did that became unfashionable, such as gardening, cooking, growing your own herbs and keeping a home. In the chateau’s potager, Jane hopes to grow everything they need for not only the classes but to feed everyone under their roof, which currently includes two other Australian couples helping to caretake the property.
Now in its second season, The French Table has perpetuated another of Jane’s long-held dreams, to write a book. At My French Table is a beautiful assemblage of snippets of family life, moreish recipes grouped by season (including milk-fed veal with vermouth and tarragon, honey-and-lavender madeleine cakes and farm-fresh yoghurt) and dishy photography. When asked how she came to be living out her dreams so precisely, Jane elucidates her fear of regret.
One morning, when Jane and Peter were out walking, he said that he was sick of talking about it. So, Jane replied, “Me too. Let’s do it. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 75 and look at you and say, ‘Why didn’t we do that? That would have been a fantastic thing to do.’”– In the end, it was their fear of not doing it that gave the couple the impetus to make it happen. Auspiciously, Jane’s sister married a Belgian who was transferred to Paris, giving Jane and Peter the perfect excuse to return to France several times in the name of research before their move.
They will always love Australia, where the family now lives for half the year after two years full-time in France, but Jane says they were keen to immerse their children in another culture. “One of the biggest things was to make the kids realise that, although they live in a great part of the world, we’re just a tiny little pimple on a pumpkin.” Educationally, she believes that giving her children this challenge and putting them in French schools is the best thing they’ve ever done for them. Her eldest daughter put it most succinctly about six months in, when Jane asked how she was finding school: “Oh yeah, it’s really hard, mum, but nothing’s ever going to be hard again.”
In her own childhood, Jane’s mother was an “incredible motivator”. “She would get us three kids, whenever she saw we were upset about something or not doing our personal best, she’d make us do mad things like looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Now look at that person in the mirror – that’s a fantastic person who can do whatever she puts her mind to.’” Undoubtedly, this strong maternal voice has helped guide Jane around life’s stumbling blocks, from the sometimes-negative reception of her dreams by others around her, to the almost-preordained red tape and language barriers involved with moving to a foreign country.
Yet it didn’t take the expats long to nestle their way into the close-knit weave of the local community, as perhaps best illustrated by a poignant moment when the village’s schoolchildren sang ‘Home Among the Gumtrees’ at their end-of-year play. We’ve found the French to be terribly open and welcoming,” Jane chimes. By opening themselves and their new home to the local villagers, they’ve been greeted with a reciprocally warm welcome. The vivacious Australian has continued the tradition of hosting fireworks at Chateau Bosgouet on Bastille Day, and used to get together with other women from the village for a weekly language exchange.
The words “life’s simple pleasures” reverberate when the devoted family woman declares that none of her achievements compare to having “happy, healthy kids that give her great joy”. She elaborates, “Always in the forefront is our family life and creating a happy, healthy family that eats together every night, that communicates and respects each other’s points of view.
“Best foot forward each day.” It might be a line that receives a groan and a roll of the eyes from her kids, but it’s an attitude Jane hopes to instil in them. We’re all going to die someday and, as for what you do in between, you can make it as exciting, challenging and wonderful as you want, if you just take the first step.
Interview by Sally Brown
Photography by Nikole Ramsay
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I may be biased however Normandy is a very beautiful region. The Norman countryside is gentle and pretty, with many rural areas appearing little changed for centuries. Apple orchards, silver beaches, colourful fishing boats and bustling harbours, incredible markets every day of the week.... who could want more? And atmosphere... Normandy has it all. Farmers markets and general markets are held in the towns and villages as in days gone by, and these are a source of delight to all who never tire of their charm and amazing fresh produce. Our Sundays usually start with a trip to the Place St Marc in Rouen...pictured above. We begin with grand steaming cups of cafe & freshly baked croissants at one of the many bars and cafes that surround the market place. After sustenance it's off to market shop. Alex and I usually hit the food stores while Pete and my Dad head straight for the brocante market at the back end of the market. It is very unusual for someone not to come home with a treasure. Today Alex picked up a few Xmas presents including tiny sterling silver timbales for her dear old Mummy!
My Dad purchased a gorgeous little Norman clock today which has a hand written note that it originated from Bosgouet!!!...Dad is thrilled and as I write he is down in his workshop tinkering away, restoring his new clock. Pete found 2 fabulous red leather bound piles of Paris Match Magazines from the 50's. Me....well I filled my trolley with hot chickens, a big hunk of Parmesan cheese, strawberries, baguettes, hot ham, baby roquette, new season clementines. It's a Sunday tradition in our home to sit and have a Sunday Market lunch together...no fuss just great market food that can be quickly plattered up when we return from the market and eaten at leisure as we sit, chat and as was the case today...ohhh and ahhh at every ones treasures!
Oh and I bought a beautiful bunch of garden roses and a pink silk ribbon to take as a gift for my friend Beatrice when we go for dinner tonight!..... I love Sunday market days.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Imagine plucking an ordinary family from their native Australia and transporting them to a French Chateau in rural France to live for a couple of years! To many it may sound completely incomprehensible but to me it was a reality. In 2005 my husband Peter and I set off on the adventure of a lifetime when we purchased Chateau de Bosgouet in Normandy, France. Along with children Lach, Millie, Maddy and Alex, aged between 4 and 13 we made a dream a reality and lived and breathed the French life for two years.
Now back in Melbourne, Australia but beginning a new chapter as our family lives between our two homes The French Table will deliver to you each and every day a little taste of French Country life from this my first blog. It may be a recipe, a cleaning tip, a new restaurant, book review, language immersion or cultural deviation into French life based on some of our adventures in France. I do hope you will enjoy my snippets from France and look forward to getting to know you all.
Demain ( tomorrow )
Friday, November 13, 2009
Our Walnut tree is literally bursting with nuts. Every time we visit a friend at the moment we take a basket of walnuts from our tree. We made this walnut tart today to take to a friend we were visiting in the next village....the village of Bourgtheroulde Infreville. We stopped off at the Bourgtheroulde village market just in front of the Marie to buy a generous pot of fresh norman cream! With the tart still warm from the oven we did not dilly dally at the market today we headed staright to our friends house for coffee and tart.
There are very few towns or villages in Normandy without their own, special market. Normandy bills itself as the gastronomic capital of Europe so here is just a selection of some markets to start you off on a Saturday morning in Normandy (Eure)
- Les Andelys
- Bourgtheroulde Infreville
- Evreux (town centre)
- Fleury sur Andelle
- Garennes sur Eure
For the pastry
250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
1tsp caster sugar
1/2tsp pure vanilla
1 whole organic free-range egg
1tbsp iced water
For the filling
300g shelled walnuts
300g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
100ml chestnut honey
6 organic free-range eggs
The zest of one unwaxed lemon
Start by making the pastry. Sift the flour and place in a food processor. Add the butter – first diced into small cubes – the sugar and vanilla and finally the egg. Turn the motor on and pulse until it is the consistency of crumble. Add the water and continue to pulse. The pastry will soon begin to come together and form a ball. Turn off the motor and remove the pastry. Wrap in baking paper and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Once the pastry has chilled, remove from the fridge and flour a work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry into a circle that is about an eighth of an inch thick. Line a 10-inch tart tin, pressing the pastry into the sides of the tin firmly with your thumbs. Prick the base of the pastry well all over using a fork and return to the fridge to chill for a further 30 minutes. While the pastry is chilling, make the filling.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the nuts in a roasting tin and toast briefly in the warm oven for no more than 3-4 minutes...this brings out the flavour! Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then place in a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the butter, sugar and honey, and turn the motor on. Add one egg at a time and purée until smooth.Fold in the lemon zest, remove from the mixer and set aside.
Remove the chilled tart case from the fridge and place on the middle shelf of the hot oven. Blind-bake (using baking paper and dried or baking beans to weigh it down) for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon in the nut-and-honey paste. Return to the middle shelf of the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the centre is just wobbly to the touch and the top is a rich nutty brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
We had friends for dinner last night and served these delicious little morsels with a chilled bottle of my favourite champagne. Nothing is better here at Bosgouet than a roaring fire, good friends, bubbles and incredible seasonal produce cooked so simply! Enjoy
Barbequed Scallops Wrapped in Bacon and Sage
- 20 fresh sage leaves
- 10 rashers streaky bacon, halved
- 150ml good olive oil
- 20 scallops
- Clove garlic peeled
- Juice of one lemon
- Preheat griddle, BBQ or frying pan
- Place a sage leaf on top of each scallop.
- Wrap each scallpo in a piece of bacon
- Thread each scallop onto a pre-soaked wooden skewers, rub with the garlic & brush with olive oil and place onto a prepared foil-lined barbecue or grill, or griddle pan placed directly onto the barbecue.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes, turning once and serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon
Little Miss Alex and I set off this morning for Rouen to start on the constantly growing Xmas list. As usual the minute we hit Rouen Alex was thirsty and I don't take much convincing! Our favourite spot for wonderful hot chocolate and a piece of cake is Dame Cakes just behind the Rouen Cathedral.
Today I chose a delicious plum tart. The custard was perfect and the plums just that wonderful balance between sweet and tart. Alex chose her favourite flourless chocolate cake...... just the right sustenance for two busy shoppers!
This little tea room is a must for anyone visiting beautiful Rouen. You will find it welcoming and deliciously satisfying!
70 RUE SAINT ROMAIN 76000 Rouen. Téléphone : 02.35.07.49.31.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Autumn is an ideal time to visit France. As if France isn't charming enough, seeing this country's cities and villages blazing with autumn colours is simply breathtaking. This is also the grape harvest season, and there are numerous festivals and activities around the country. We have just come back to Bosgouet from Bordeaux where I was finalising the finishing touches to a week in Bordeaux The French Table is offering next July. We were fortunate enough to visit Château Margeaux during harvest season. I am thrilled to announce that Clive Coates ( Master of Wine) will be joining us for this incredible French adventure in Bordeaux!
Napoléon III, mocked by Victor Hugo, as Napoléon le Petit, paid a fine tribute to the great red wines of the Médoc, by organizing in 1855, in Paris, the Second Great Exhibition. The Emperor was in a hurry to follow England which had inaugurated the First Great Exhibition in 1851 in London, at the instigation of Albert of Saxe, the husband of Queen Victoria. He understood the advantage for those countries participating of presenting their latest industrial, scientific and cultural innovations, and he did not want to miss this opportunity to glorify French products, including the prestigious wines of the Médoc. He wished the wines to be presented by way of a classification. A blind tasting was organised in Paris, which led to the famous 1855 official classification, which divided around 60 growths from the Médoc, plus one estate from the Graves, into 5 levels of quality. Only four growths were ranked 'First Great Classified Growth', and Margaux was the only one to be marked 20 out of 20. This classification (which is as valid today as it was then) only confirmed the hierarchy visible in the great price differences that had been practised on the world market for many years. In the 18th century, the 'first growths' had already been sold at twice the price of the 'second growths'. The 1855 classification in fact followed on from other unofficial attempts at a classification : after that made by Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century the other recommended work was the 'Map of all the Known Vineyards', published in 1816, whose author was André Jullien, a wine merchant in Paris, born in 1776. He was followed by the German wine shipper, Wilhelm Franck in 1824 and the wine broker, Paguierre in 1828. The real 'bible of Bordeaux wines', however, was 'Bordeaux and its wines, Classified by Order of Merit', drawn up by Charles Cocks, a teacher, about whom we unfortunately know very little, and published in 1850 by the Bordeaux bookseller, Michel Féret. Charles Cocks died in 1854, one year too early to see that the official classification of 1855 corresponded almost exactly to his own, as well as to those drawn up by Jefferson, Jullian and Franck. Under the Second Empire, the least we can say is that Bordeaux enjoyed a real golden age, thanks to the building of a railway from Bordeaux to Paris, and also to the commercial boom, made easier by the new free-trade agreements inspired by the liberal ideas of the Emperor, who was able to boast, in Bordeaux itself, that 'Empire brings Peace'.
- 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 250g unsalted butter
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- 1 cup milk
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- Pouring cream, to serve
It is difficult to conceive of cooking in Normandy without apples. As well as being the key ingredient in the region's ubiquitous cider, apples are incorporated into almost any type of cooking and baking you can imagine. A slice of this teacake is a perfect mid-afternoon treat.
Preheat oven to 180C. Place apples, sugar and water in a saucepan, then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until apples are soft. Drain and let cool. Using hand-held electric beaters, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Sift in flour and slowly add milk, beating to combine. Pour batter into a 28cm cake pan. Top with cooled stewed apples and sprinkle with a little freshly grated nutmeg. Bake cake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh cream.
From At My French Table
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
France - Pear Tarte TatinThe pears were divine at the market this morning so I came home with half a dozen and made this Pear Tarte Tatin....make a lovely change from apples.
This glazed upside-down pastry is traditionally made with apples, but the pears give the tart a lovely texture.
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
35g (1.2oz) unsalted butter
1-2 firm pears, peeled, halved, cored, then each half cut into 8 thin wedges
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped into small bowl
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
ice cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
Melt sugar, butter and one tablespoon water in a heavy-based 20cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil for a few minutes or until syrup is dark amber, taking care not to burn. Remove from heat immediately and leave to cool so that bubbles subside. Toss pears with grated ginger and vanilla seeds, then arrange slices, overlapping, in a circle in the frying pan, placing a few around the edge if necessary.
Cut puff pastry into a round slightly bigger than the frying pan. Place puff pastry round on top of pear mixture in frying pan, then tuck in edges around pears. Bake tart for about 35 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden.
Invert tart into a large plate and serve hot with ice-cream or at room temperature.
From At My French Table, Jane Webster.
Monday, November 9, 2009
After purchasing a "petit piece" of Pont L'eveque fromage we went to our favourite bar for a cafe creme and warm coissant before heading home for a morning of chores and cooking. Chrystelle my "femme de menage" who doesn't do such a "crystal clean" had finished a neat stack of ironing, mainly linen napkins from a luncheon we had on Saturday for some local french friends. I had left her with instructions to just "cest propre" the big kitchen ....this she does well...the trick with Chrystelle is to not give her too much!
Cooked up a storm of pumpkin & ginger soup followed by fish pie. Alex our 9 year old has had a bad cold so we ate lunch on trays with her in our room....she's taken over completely.
Here's the recipes
Pumkin & Ginger soup
2 large onions diced
2 cloves garlic finely diced
2 cm piece ginger finely diced
100 grams butter
1 kg Pumpkin cut into small pieces
1.5 litres homemade chicken stock
Melt butter in large cast iron pot and saute gently onions, garlic and ginger
Add pumpkin to pan and cover with hot stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 mins.
Puree soup with a bamix or food processor.
Serve with a dob of creme fraiche and freshly chopped chives!
Normandy Fish Pie
1 large red onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely diced
1 chilli finely diced without the seeds
100 grams butter
1 head broccoli florets steamed for 2 minutes
2 dozen sea scallops
2 dozen prawns
3 salmon fillets
2 carrots diced
handful of freshly chopped parsley
6 sheets filo pastry
Melt butter and sute gently onions, garlic, chilli and carrots.
Add Salmon to pan and cook, breaking the salmon up as it cooks.
Add scallops and prawns and cook for 1 minute
Add cream and bring to boil then simmer for a few minutes.
Add steamed broccoli florets
Pour all into a casserole.
Scrunch up filo sheets and place all over the top of the casserole and bake in the oven for 30 mins on 180°C
Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve!