Gà nướng sả, Gỏi đu đủ & nước chấm – Lemongrass Chicken, Papaya Salad and an awesome dressing!

WP_20140628_12_35_10_ProSo the conversation went, “Hun”, yep, “I fancy a Salad”, ok, “not ANY old Salad though”, uh huh, what sort of Salad, “One of your punchy, spicy, healthy ones”, OK………

In the car and of to my favourite Oriental Store to buy the ingredients, I had spent some time researching recipes and flavour combinations and come up with a couple of interesting dishes. I have covered  Yin & Yang in previous posts so won’t repeat again suffice to say this was going to be spicy, sweet  etc. There are some ‘specialist’ ingredients in this recipe including Green Papaya (NOT the orange flesh version in supermarkets), Dried Shrimp, Thai Sweet Basil and Galangal. The Papaya is Long, rather than round. You will also need 1 Chicken Breast per person, 1 serving of Vermicelli Rice Noodles per person, Shallots, Lime, Lemongrass, Garlic, Thai Red Chilli, Beansprouts, Carrot, Cucumber, Palm Sugar, Thai Fish Sauce, Coriander Seeds, fresh Coriander and Mint, Salt and Pepper.

WP_20140628_12_48_34_ProThere are loads of recipes on the internet for Vietnamese Cuisine, click to the left you can find details about popular recipes, then just pick one, stick the name in your favourite search engine and away you go! I decided to try and take the best bits of a number of ideas and incorporate them in the final dish. You will need some shallots, they need shallow frying until crisp, DON’T throw away the oil, as its going to be used once you have also THINLY sliced some Garlic, and also fried until crisp. Drain both on kitchen paper and set aside. The remaining Oil is jam packed with flavour which we will use with the following marinade, (this element doesn’t appear in the recipes I found whilst researching but it would be a shame not to include such a flavour enhancement!).

WP_20140628_15_20_52_ProFor two people I used 2 stalks of Lemongrass thinly sliced, 2 cloves of Garlic, 3 Red Thai Chilli’s, some slices of Galangal and a tablespoon of freshly roasted Coriander Seeds (Steenbergs are my favourite), season with Salt and Pepper.  You can pound with a pestle and mortar or use a grinder/blender to blitz as finely as possible, which is a lot quicker. Add some of the oil you used to fry the Shallots and Garlic to loosen the marinade, which should end up looking something like this.

WP_20140628_15_36_24_Pro The Chicken Breasts need marinating for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, I went for about 2 hours. The nước chấm sauce is served with many Vietnamese dishes and adds punch and depth of flavour.

WP_20140628_16_30_37_ProThe general rule of thumb is 1 part Fish Sauce (Nam Pla), 1 part Sugar (Palm Sugar is preferred), 2 parts Water and Lime Juice (I used 1 whole Lime). You can then add some extra flavours to enhance, in my case 1 thinly sliced Red Thai Chilli, 4 Slices of Galangal, 1 sliced Garlic Clove, and 1 tablespoon of Tamarind concentrate. You can put the fish sauce and palm sugar in the microwave for a few seconds to help it dissolve. Set aside in the fridge once made to enable the flavours to develop. Before you serve it run it through a strainer to remove the bits.

WP_20140628_18_20_34_ProThe Green Papaya Salad is mainly a construction job, the Papaya is quite long, you can just see it at the top of the post, on the top left hand side of the picture, its not the same as many of the Papaya you get in supermarkets that have orange flesh. I used one for two people along with a 5 inch length of Cucumber, seeds removed and julienned, 1/2 a carrot, a handful of Beansprouts, 3 thinly sliced Shallots, a couple of Spring Onions, again thinly sliced, and about 10 cherry tomatoes, halved. Herbs were chiffonade of Mint, Thai Sweet Basil and Coriander, a good handful of each. Using a mandolin with Julienne setting speeds up the chopping!

WP_20140628_19_01_39_ProI Baked the Chicken in the oven for 30 Minutes, and rested for 5 minutes. Whilst the Chicken is resting, take two servings of Vermicelli Rice Noodles, place in a bowl and  cover with boiling water, follow the instructions on the packet, mine said 3 minutes. Slice the Chicken, place the Noodles on the plate, and the sliced Chicken on top, sprinkle some more chiffonade of Thai Sweet Basil on top. Take your prepared salad and GENTLY bruise with a rolling pin, releasing some of the tomato juices, add some of the nước chấm dressing and sprinkle some crispy Shallots, Garlic, Roasted Peanuts and if you can get them, some Dried Shrimp that has been fried and crushed.

WP_20140628_19_03_33_ProDelicious; understatement, the boss was well chuffed (as was I). The Chicken (proper from our local supplier Casey Fields), was so juicy and tender, and punchy flavours of Lemongrass, Chilli and Garlic, the Salad refreshing, crunchy and stunning. You can add some more nước chấm dressing to lift it even more.

This dish took a while to prepare, but done in stages its easy. Fry the Shallots and Garlic first as using the Oil in the Marinade adds more flavour. The Salad can be made in advance, but crush and add the dressing at the LAST minute.

Have a go at this one, it will leave you feeling fantastic.

Till next time…………….L8ers…

Sardine or Pilchard, I don’t really mind!

WP_20140622_12_20_04_ProI usually have a couple of tins of Sardines in the larder just for emergencies, or when I am not sure what I fancy to eat. Coupled with a Bertinet Caramelised Onion, Cumin and Cheese Bread, you have the makings of one hell of a delicious snack, brunch or light tea at any time of the day, month or year!

I adore Bread, but cannot eat the usual stuff in the Supermarkets, half the ingredients are un-recognisable (and un-necessary), and the speed of production, thanks to the Chorleywood Bread process makes for something my stomach cannot stand. The same goes for the Burger Buns used in well known chains, can’t stand them either, within 30 minutes of consumption I feel ill, bilious and erghh so it was a real treat when a well known Artisan Bread Genius, Richard Bertinet, struck a deal with Waitrose and  I can now get PROPER Bread again.

WP_20140622_12_29_33_ProThis recipe/construction job is dead easy to do, but relies on the best ingredients. A Marmande Tomato (available from Waitrose), Aleppo Chilli flakes (available from Ottolenghi online), Ras al-Hanut (available from Steenbergs), GOOD tinned Sardines such as Parmentier (Waitrose again), Garlic, Olive Oil, Tomato Puree and Sea Salt.

The Sardines need to be gently drained, halved lengthways and their central bone and any Roe removed. If you can’t get a Bertinet loaf, any good quality Artisan Bread will do (for me, decent Bread only has Flour, Yeast, Salt and Water, plus any flavours such as Onions, Cheese, Cumin etc). Before you start, set the oven to 200 degrees and put the kettle on (for a cup of tea!).

WP_20140622_12_39_53_ProTake 2 – 3 slices of Bread (depending on size!) and liberally coat both side with Olive Oil, place on a baking tray and put in the oven until lightly crisp and brown on both sides. This will depend on the Bread so just check it after 5 Minutes and then every 1-2 minutes until done (drink some tea in-between!).

Once the Bread is nicely toasted, take a clove of Garlic cut in half and rub on the Bread, it will impart a subtle flavour. Then lightly spread some tomato paste on top, you can see this above. Its job is to give the Tomato an even more rich and punchy flavour.

WP_20140622_12_41_19_ProThinly slice the Marmande Tomato and place on top of the Bread, then sprinkle with Aleppo Chilli Flakes, Ras al-Hanut and Sea Salt, then some more Olive Oil. Place the Sardine fillets on top and put back into the oven for about 10 minutes. Again, you will need to check as the cooking speed will depend on the size of your Sardine’s and oven.

WP_20140622_12_56_00_ProTo finish you can add something acidic, I took some more of the Marmande Tomato, some Red Onion, White Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil, as you can see on the finished dish above.


Until next time…………..L8ers..






Making Good Taste Better – Welcome to Steenbergs!

As many of you already know, I am quite fussy about sourcing ingredients from artisan, ethical and small businesses rather than the usual brands that have taken over the UK like a rabid pestilence (you know who I mean!). With the recent (and historic) food scandals around meat, my 1st port of call for protein is always Casey Fields Farm Shop, part of Vicar’s Game who can supply almost anything (and knows exactly from where, and what it comes from!). But in order to enhance ANY recipe then you need Herbs and Spices, this maybe just Salt or Pepper but even the most basic of additions to a meal need some consideration to get the best flavor.

5bc078f7e7894c1a36e1b117c7f70794So for Herbs, Spices and other flavor enhancers my 1st port of call is STEENBERGS, in fact it probably is my ONLY place of call, unless I forget to order something when my current stock is depleted!

Steenbergs Organic is a family-run, friendly firm committed to Fairtrade, the environment and people. It was set up in 2003 by Axel and Sophie Steenberg in North Yorkshire and this week I had the privilege of popping in on my way to a meeting in Darlington. Just to be clear, I was not asked to do a review, received no gifts or favours (other than sharing a nice cup of tea with Axel), but from a personally perspective wanted to understand more about a supplier I use on a regular basis, and pass on my own view of the experience.

2014-06-10 15.23.29Sourcing Herbs and Spice’s is not easy, as I was to find out from Axel as we went from room to room. It was a 3 1/2 drive to Melmerby, near Ripon in North Yorkshire where Steenbergs are located, after I arrived, I completed the mandatory health/sickness declaration, donned a cloak and hair net, and we started the tour. Sophie, Axel’s partner (in both marriage and business), was busy applying the finishing touches to a box of the distinctive glass jars that are used to store the various products, the final blue seal. Legislation has an interesting impact on importing food products. You would imagine that Cardamom, Pepper, Sumac etc. would arrive in ‘romantic’ hessian sacks, but no,  thanks to the EU and other legislative bodies, vacuum packing is the order of the day and the 1st task as soon as a shipment arrives, is to remove the plastic to prevent the product from sweating and going off!

2014-06-10 15.23.37Steenbergs have in excess of 200 items, I mentioned Salt and Pepper earlier and you are spoilt for choice (and flavor). Kala Namak – Indian Black Salt, Pyramid Finger Salt From Pakistan, Murray River Pink Salt from Australia, Lava Red Hawaiian Sea Salt enriched with A natural mineral called “Alaea” (baked volcanic red clay), they all have different flavor profiles and searching on Steenbergs VERY comprehensive website you can find details and descriptions on how to match the product with food, and importantly details about the sourcing. On the Pepper front you can choose from Tasmanian Mountain Pepper Leaf ( a new one for me!), Southern Sumatran Lampung Black Pepper, Madagascan Wild Pepper, Tasmanian Mountain Pepper (Very Hot), Piper retrofactum (Long Pepper from Indonesia) as well as ‘normal’ varieties.

2014-06-10 15.32.09Steenbergs, because of the size and family nature of the business are VERY flexible about obtaining new Herbs and Spices. Because they are not buying bulk anonymous products by the Ton, but locating ingredients at source in smaller quantities, they are keen to try and locate unusual and difficult to get ingredients for their customers, a really personal touch.

Whilst we were touring the facility I asked a question about Saffron, the most expensive Spice in the world. Steenbergs have several on offer including one from AFGHANISTAN, please click and find out how they are helping change a village and impacting on the illegal drug trade, its a truly amazing story.

2014-06-10 15.39.51The aromas as we walked around the factory were intoxicating, the machine above delivers precise amounts of Herbs or Spices into the jars before labeling, the picture was taken as a Madras Curry Powder mix was going through the process, mmmmmm.


Steenbergs sell Herbs, Spices and their own blends, which introduced another really interesting (and artisan) feature. If you look at the majority of Spice blends in the shops, the powder is the same size (with a very few exceptions), Steenbergs blends are personal to them, so the Ras al-Hanut (one of my favourites), has over 20 different ingredients AND they are texturally different, making for a better eating experience.


Whilst on the subject of Ras al-Hanut, if you take some butter puff pastry, preferable home-made but quality shop bought is OK, some decent Sausage Meat from a Butcher (NOT the pink stuff that fills cheap Sausages), add a tablespoon of Steenbergs Ras al-Hanut and mix well you are on your way to the BEST SAUSAGE ROLLS EVER, please try them they are just fantastic.When I made the sausage rolls above as an experiment, and gave one to the ‘boss’ to try, the look on her face said it all, expletives excused bl@@dy delicious!!

So, some of the values that drive the Steenbergs business include ensuring there is personality in the Spice Mixes, Family Village sourcing and having an impact on local communities, flexibility, connecting to real people in remote places, not driven by price….

2014-06-10 15.37.00Steenbergs have some very large well known brands as their customers, and some famous people and chefs too.  I won’t say who due to client confidentiality but unfortunately I had to depart and get to Darlington, so said farewell to Axel and his family of workers. If you want to impart and enhance flavour in your cooking then I know what I do, please give them a go, thanks Axel and Sophie for allowing me behind the scenes (and for the tea!).

Till next time……L8ers









Reflecting the past 5 days – The Gascony Cookery School, Gramont.


Amazing ‘proper’ Cassoulet, outstanding (and very filling!)


I am slowly coming back to reality, the last five days have been a whirlwind culinary experience, with some history and culture thrown in for good measure. To use an Australianism (and please excuse the minor expletive), when you bugger off on your own for a week in the middle of nowhere, there will always be a certain nervousness, not knowing who you are going to be sharing your experience with, not having complete control of what will happen, being aware of your lack of cooking skills etc…….

Firstly a few thanks, big ones to be honest. Helen & Di from Australia (you FIGJAMS!), Jo and Sally (ABC), and the lovely Claire (Ms Leith!) all made my lonesome trip so much better. Friendly innocent banter (yeah right!), some of the conversations had us all in hysterics (don’t ask me about skippy!, like teenagers growing up together on a week’s road trip.

Wheres the bloody Pizza?

Wheres the bloody Pizza?

I think I only got one picture of our amazing host Vikki, the smiley happy type standing in the background always making tea or pointing us towards the chilled rosé in the fridge, and the frozen bottles in the freezer to make sure it was always cold, and stayed cold. Vikki was a delight to be around, and worked like a ‘Trogan’, ensuring our rooms were clean and tidy, and preparing delicious breakfast every day as well as making sure we were happy, nothing was too much trouble, thanks Vikki.

This isn’t just as Pizza, it’s my Pizza Gersoise!

David is an amazing Chef and fantastic Tutor, the patience of a saint (he would need it with our bunch!), we were taken through the process of preparing some quite sophisticated dishes, some of which I never expected to be able to do. His knowledge of all things Gascogne, we all came away with so much more knowledge about the amazing location we were lucky enough to be enjoying, and the history, culture and cuisine of this hidden gem in the south west corner of France. Thanks David, your a Gem.

Julian, are you ready to Flambé, OUI CHEF!

Julian, are you ready to Flambé, OUI CHEF!

Smiley happy Bernard, the kind gentle Chef Patron of Le petit Feuillant, the restaurant in Gramont and teacher of all things Crème, oh and Cassoulet, and Foie Gras (his was just OUTSTANDING)…what a Chef, MasterChef.  Merci Bernard.

If you are looking for a different experience, and like cooking, give The Gascony Cookery School a visit, you won’t be disappointed.

Watch those fingers Sally!

Watch those fingers Sally!

P.S. I would advise going on a diet before attending this course, we ate LOADS but everything was just delicious.

À bientôt


Crème, Crème and more Crème, oh and a Sauce Béchamel

The feature image of this post sums up how 6 strangers (well 2 pairs of sisters, Claire and myself!) ended up, if there were 6 Muskateer’s then we were them. We had proved that a bunch of amateur cooks could plate up seriously good food, VERY quickly, even David, our instructor was impressed, Phew……

2014-06-02 18.14.03We were coming to the end of the cooking lessons and it was over to the lovely Bernard Corbière, at his restaurant ‘Le Petit Feuillant’ to learn some more skills from the maestro. Bernard is a really really nice, very experienced Chef. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying other Chef’s are not nice (David is a great guy too btw!), but Bernard is softly spoken, patient and very kind hearted. If you image 1 person able to cook a 60-70 cover restaurant ON THEIR OWN, without breaking a sweat then that’s Bernard. He was going to share some of his secrets with us, to find out more book yourself on the course, i’m not telling!

2014-06-05 09.37.39During our ‘masterclass’, we learnt how to make the base for a range of deserts in no time at all. The base would last for 5-6 days in the fridge (not in our house I suspect), and could be adjusted for different recipes. I was given the ‘Honour of the Blowtorch’, doing the classic finishing touch to a Crème brûlée, something I had never done before, especially considering the industrial blowtorch that I was using! We also learnt the secrets of making a ‘light’ Chocolate Mousse, it was to be eaten later at lunchtime, yummo.

2014-06-05 09.11.55Following the ‘sweet’ side of cooking we swiftly moved onto ‘Béchamel Sauce’ and learnt some more ‘secrets’, this was proving to be even more interesting that I first thought. After a couple of hours we were back over the road with David and onto the Sugar craft, I did not take many pictures as I was concentrating on not burning myself, 240 degree sugar is DANGEROUS!!

2014-06-05 15.29.51After lunch we set off across the Gascon countryside on a road trip! What I mean is there were several tours that were planned, to expose us to the beauty and history of the local area and its heritage.  A local Mill owned by Mark and Sue, who had joined us for dinner the previous evening which was absolutely stunning and quite a suprise, La RomieuChâteau de Larressingle from the XIIIth Century,  one of my favourites (quelle suprise), was the Armagnac Distillery and ‘Le château de Cassaigne’.

2014-06-05 15.59.23We got to taste some  awesome Armagnac which was ‘qualité exceptionnelle’, because our host David is a regular, we ‘skipped’ what visitors would usually taste (which is still good), but jumped straight to an 18-20 year old blend rather than starting at younger distills, Happy Days! A some of my followers know, I am 50 next year and I was able to procure a 1965 Armagnac, the year I was born, (The sad bit is BA lost my bag on the return journey so unless it turns up, I may have to return to buy another, and make BA pay for trip!!).

2014-06-05 15.31.40Le château de Cassaigne also has a working XIIIth century kitchen as well as the Armagnac Museum which we also saw. After the tour we headed back to Gramont for a our  ‘final supper’, it felt a bit like that insomuch as all of us had bonded over our love of food, and shared much laughter during our few days together.

WP_20140605_21_18_53_ProYou may recall earlier in the week we made a Cassoulet, it develops even more flavour over a couple of todays and the ‘last Supper’ was to include the dish we had prepared. To finish the dish off, ‘Duck confit’ is added and the Toulouse Sausage/Bean mixture is spooned on top, then the whole lot goes in the oven, sprinkled with some Breadcrumbs.  As the Cassoulet cooks, the fats rises and is soaked up by the Breadcrumbs, making then crispy, it was AWESOME…. I have had a few Cassoulets in my time and this WAS the best.

WP_20140605_22_04_53_ProWe finished the meal with a delicious Apple dish, with crispy flaky pastry and ice-cream, the Cookery Course had finished.

C’est tout.

À tout à l’heure…. L8ers…..




Floc de Gascogne, Le Gers and Ballotine de Poulet – Another day in Gramont

Gramont day 3 001Blimey O’Reilly, the week is flying by and we are having a blast. A challenge was set before us on Wednesday, some workmen (not dissimilar from that Coke add a few years ago, not my word b.t.w!) had broken the power cable into the cookery school, oops!

We moved to the terrace to chop, slice and crush the ingredients for a ‘Soupe aux Deux Poivrons’ (Two-Pepper Soup) whilst David and Co. rigged a temporary light over our work space.Gramont day 3 002It was not long before we were back in the kitchen, focusing on the mise en place, ready for the cooking later that day. So much has been learnt so far this week and today was to be no exception, boning a Chicken was our next challenge.

Gramont day 3 012Getting to this point took about 30-40 minutes, as David showed us the various steps and tricks to ensure the Chicken skin remained intact, this was important as we had to remove the brown meat to lay across the centre and then stuff with a Pork ‘Farce’ stuffing, rich with Garlic, Parsley, Onions and Sage. If you want to learn how to do this, book the course and impress your friends with the finished result.

Gramont day 3 029We have some amazing characters on the course, it’s truly international and makes for some interesting conversation. Breakfast usually consists of an array of fresh Pastries, Tea or Coffee, fresh Fruit, Granola……..and home made Jams, the Fig is awesome. During some amusing conversation we were introduced to ‘The Butterfingers’, an Australian and a song of theirs, fascinating stuff you can find HERE!

Gramont day 3 015We made a couple of ‘Tarte Au Citron’ today, well, six in reality learning more pastry skills along the way, I have to say they were bloody good (oops expletive, sorry!). They don’t get wasted, all are used either by the class to east as a desert, or over at the Auberge so serve to Bernard’s customers, or traded with suppliers to the school, real ingenuity.

Gramont day 3 026Dinner each evening is either served on the terrace or inside on the communal table, weather depending. Tonight we had a couple of guests, so there was extra pressure to get things right. Before sitting down for dinner aperitifs were served on the terrace, which included ‘Floc De Gascogne’ a local speciality from ‘Le Gers’, the region of France we are located at.

Another awesome day, chopping, banter, laughter and also a visit to the local Chateau, which was really interesting. Tomorrow is intensive, Creme Pat’, Creme Brulee, Creme everything, then a visit to an Armagnac distillery.

Till next time.






Now THAT’S a Tomato – Gascony Cooking School, Day Two

Gramont day 2 002I still appear to be on UK time in my head, so decided to post another update before hitting my bed. Today has been busy again, visiting the market at Fleurance after a traditional French breakfast (O.K., almost as I had Tea!), and tasked with buying produce to be used later.

Gramont day 2 008Fleurance is a charming town, the market provided an opportunity to mingle with the locals and find the odd treat, in my case Madagascan Vanilla pods at the cheapest I have ever seen them (10 Euros for 15 pods, AWESOME).

Gramont day 2 016After a lovely lunch at the Sports Cafe it was back to the kitchen and time to learn some more knife skills. After gutting some really fresh Plaice, we all got the chance to learn how to Fillet, you can see David, showing Claire how to get things done!

Gramont day 2 030Our ‘Tour De Force’ today was the Tarte Au Pomme, not the scraggy, untidy ‘job’ you often see, but a loving, caring, artisan product that can sell for over £20 in the U.K., hand made and precision in every aspect. My lovely new cookery friends have been so much fun and provide comedy and laughter at every moment, thanks ladies!

Gramont day 2 039We spent over 4 hours in the kitchen today, Veloute, Filleting, Chopping Practice, Tart au Pomme, Plating techniques and had such a blast, winding down with an Armagnac, I managed to read a few more pages of a book that was bought to fill in whatever spare moments we have (the pic is earlier in the evening with a chilled Rose!, can’t find the accent on my Netbook, doh!).

Gascony is truly wonderful, the Gascony Cookery School is a blast and moves from 20 to 30 out of 10.

Can’t wait till tomorrow.

Till next time……… L8ers




I hope you are hungry – Day 1 at the Gascony Cookery School

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 071Find a village in the middle of nowhere, inhabitants about 10 families, on a hilltop with an ancient Chateau, 1 restaurant (le petit feuillant) owned by the lovely Bernard, and chambres d’hotes run by the wonderful David and Vikki and you have a recipe for a unique and wonderful experience.

Gramont is in Gascony, in the southwest corner of France. Served by Toulouse airport, its only  1 hour 45 minutes from Heathrow and a world away from the hustle and bustle of the UK.

We started the morning learning knife skills, each of us had our own professional knife set and steel, used to ‘hone’ the blade before each day. After practicing on a range of vegetable we started work on a number of dishes which added further to our skills.Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 006When you see those chefs on TV, forcefully ‘launch’ Onions and other ingredients in a frying pan and wondered why it does not work for you, then come on this course and you will learn the secret, its not as easy as its looks but when you have a guide like David, a professional trained chef it becomes a lot clearer and you get to practice in the safety of a quality teaching kitchen.Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 026The Onions, once fried were to be a component in the Duck Pizza we were making for lunch, which was quite delicious, we had prepared two lots, one with Chilli the other without. The cutouts from the pastry were used to make the equivalent of ‘Money Pouches’, filled with some of the Onion mixture and some Cheese.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 010Gateau Pithiviers, filled with an Almond cream was the dessert, learning hints and tips on decoration and presentation gave everyone confidence as the morning progressed towards lunch which was taking on the terrace, with spectacular views of the Gascony countryside.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 019We also learnt how to make a PROPER Crepe Suzette sauce, I am not going to tell you how, book the course and you will find out.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 036The afternoon was spent at Bernard’s restaurant to learn some more cooking skills. First we prepared a Cassoulet, layers 0f vegetables, Smoked Bacon Lardons, Sausage, Pigs Trotters (for the Gelatine), Haricot Verts— etc… It cooks for several hours, is allowed to cool, and finished off the next day with Duck Confit.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 050If you are squeamish, then Foie Gras maybe a bit challenging, personally I love it but don’t get to eat it very often (its not cheap!). We learnt how to prepare this delicacy 3 different ways including pain d’epices, stuffed with…….thin slices of Ginger Cake, its delicious as we found out during the evening meal.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 065Flipping Crepes introduced some competition into the afternoon, I am the only bloke on the course, surrounded by 5 competitive ladies, all of them lovely in their own unique way. Two of us on the course are lonesome doves, the other 2 pairs are sisters from the UK and Australia and we are having a blast.

Back to David’s (only a 5 minute walk) and we prepared a sweet pastry that needs to rest for several hours before we can roll it out.

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 095This evenings meal extravaganza was AMAZING. Before settling down, we visited a unique Museum Du Vin, underneath the restaurant, which was fascinating, you have to come and see it for yourself. The menu gourmande, Gascony haute cuisine was stunning, 3 versions of Foie Gras (we know how to make that now), beautiful Soup, Rump Steak cooked to perfection, a palate cleanser of Pear Sorbet with Eau De Vie, (I also had the Cheese course, when in France and all that), and finished of with Crepes Suzette which we prepared ourselves, practicing in the kitchen the technique of Flambe!

Gramont - Gascony Cooking School 112

So, if I could give 20 out of 10 I would, today has been busy, fun, we’ve learnt loads, eaten loads, drunk loads (the wine seems free flowing!), and I cannot wait for tomorrows adventure.

You have to come here, its AMAZING….

Till next time… L8ers……………..





THE Gascon Cookery School (Adventure)

Firstly an apology, no pictures today. Its been a long one, up at 4:45 a.m., drive to Airport, eat  really poor Bacon sandwich at Heathrow T5, get on Plane, have cup of tea and watch Rick Stein eats the Blues. Picked up at Airport with the lovely Claire and whisked of to Gramont in Gascony, via Concorde, Fighter Plane outside museum, rolling counrtyside and Garlic fields..

We were greeted by the welcoming Vicki and David, amazing hosts. On arrival, and after settling in, lunch was beckoning us at the local Auberge, Le Petit Feuillant, the start of a gastronomic experience. Run by Bernard Corbiere, the 65 cover eatery served tasty amazing food. A delicious Aperitif, Foie Gras, home made Soup (delicious), Chicken (that tasted of Chicken), with superb sauce and vegetables, Quiche (homemade and sublime) and an Apple dessert with Chocolate Mousse, then coffee in the sun, on the terrace.#stuffed

A few hours to chill and start a new book, “A Tourist in the Arab Spring”, by Tom Chesshyre proved a good purchase.

The rest of the foodies arrived and shortly after 7 p.m. we were munching wild Boar canapes on the terrace before sitting down to a fabulous  meal. I already feel part of a multi-cultural family, we covered all manner of topics whilst munching through more Foie Gras, sliced Duck with Potatoes cooked in…….Duck Fat, delicious Cheese, and Pain Perdu, with delicious Coulis and Creme Fraiche.

David and Vicki are wonderful hosts, the wine was free flowing, delicious and generous, the conversation around the table was funny, inclusive and made everyone feel at home.

I’m just finishing a glass of wine before hitting the sack, knife skills tomorrow and I’ve been up for nearly 20 hours so better get some rest!  This feels like its going to be another amazing foodie adventure.

Until next time, L8ers……….