L'autre Vie Blog by Rae-Helen Fisenden
My experience of cooking in France
I quite like to cook. And, although I do get a tiny bit anxious these days, I do like to entertain.
I don't quite know why. Perhaps my upbringing has something to do with it as our home, when I was a child, was often brimming with people and food. I grew up thinking this was quite the norm.
Films like "Julie and Julia" I simply love and have watched countless times, often dreaming of how I would like to cook my way through Julia Child's french cookbook one day myself. I did try out Julia's "Boeuf Bourguignon" recipe as my first attempt, and found it to be rather tedious and fiddly but in the end, well worth the effort. However, I've quickly come to realise I'm more of a creative cook than Cordon Bleu Chef material and I prefer to do my "own thing" given the ingredients at hand.
Desserts, however, are simply NOT my forté so today I'm particularly glad to be in France as I prepare the evening meal. But more of that later.
In Beaulieu, where our townhouse is and where we are staying at the moment, it's February and the weather as you might expect, is a bit chilly. The house however, is toasty and warm. The fire is on and I'm happy to be pottering about.
Because it's winter here in France, soups are a very welcome addition and starter to any meal, if not the entire meal itself!
The market today had some lovely fresh leeks, beautiful celery, carrots and lovely, large white choufleur. That's cauliflower in french and along with half of it, and the rest of the veges mentioned, I cut them all finely for my Le Creuset pot. I then fried up some lardons as well to add a bit of smokey ham flavour to the soup.
Lardon Fumé are France's answer to bacon. They are, to the uninitiated, sold either smoked or not, and packaged as small fatty cubes. Simply delicious. So when cooked through I'll blend the ingredients which have been simmering for several hours in a lovely chicken stock, and serve, garnished with a little light cream.
As in other European countries the french do not have traditional soup spoons as we of English orientation are accustomed. Instead, a normal dessert spoon is used. I still find this practice somewhat disconcerting.
For the main dish of the evening or "Plat Principal" I'm using escalopes of turkey. Turkey, along with duck, quail, chicken and geese is plentiful in these parts and with the abundance of maize grown in the area I'm not surprised as to why.
The turkey is finely cut, tender and lean and each piece I simply flatten out just a little more before adding grated cheese and finely chopped parsley to each escalope. The cheese I use can differ according to what I have on hand. A nice Roquefort works a treat or a tasty Cantal. Each escalope I roll up from edge to edge and then secure by rolling them again in some excellent Italian Speck. Then I refrigerate them until I'm ready to cook. Pan fried in some beautiful french butter until the cheese begins to gently ooze from the turkey and with the addition of some black pepper and cream, into which has been whisked some Dijon mustard, they are ready to slice and serve. Tonight I shall serve them with some fresh haricot beans. Is your mouth watering? Mine is!
And now to Madame Sucrée. This is a photo of the box into which each exquisite pastry we buy is placed and which comes from the Patisserie/Boulangerie located on the main street of our village. This morning we went early so as to have the best choice of what was on offer.
Once chosen, our delectables are gently and lovingly placed into the box. I love the cover of it with the voluptuous figure of Madame Sucrée, her dress of strawberries and her hat a flourish of chocolate. I said in french with a smile on my face to the shop assistant- " C'est moi!" pointing to Madame Sucrée. (That's me! ) To which my husband quickly ( rather too quickly ) responded in french " Dans tes rêves !" I'll let you work out what that means!
And indeed if I eat too many of these I will, in fact, bear NO resemblance whatsoever to Madame Sucrée!
It does make presenting dessert this evening quite easy however, and it certainly is not unusual to have a" store bought" patisserie served at one's table here in France. It doesn't take too long to appreciate exactly why.
Come to France and find out for yourself.