Desi, Native, Traditional Yardbird (Chicken, Murgh) – Confused, read on?

WP_20150516_15_43_02_ProYou would think making a Chicken Curry would be simple, Nah……..

I had planned to make some Paratha’s to go with a Desi Murgh I was going to attempt, hence the flour in the picture above, it never happened but I promise to re-visit Paratha’s another day.

The week was rather busy, I meet a new bunch of people I am supporting in my day job and ended up in a fantastic Greek restaurant in Weston-Super-Mare called Demetris, the ‘Sheftalia’ was delicious and the ‘Stifado’ was that good, I got several pats on the back for finding such an amazing restaurant with 5 minutes notice.

The following day I was at a RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) home with some other team mates, doing a days charity work helping get the garden in pristine condition, a really worthy graft albeit left with aches and pains in places I did not know existed.

WP_20150516_15_55_53_ProBack to the kitchen and Desi Murgh, a traditional dish from Southern India. According to the research I did whilst preparing this beauty it used to be a dish for a special occasion, as large scale chicken production did not exist and Chicken was expensive. The reference to ‘Yardbird’ in the title, is that in the Deep Southern states of America, a Yardbird was another name for Chicken, but elsewhere it was a term for a prisoner!!

I have been fortunate enough to attend two 1 day cookery courses with the Lovely Sumayya Usmani of My Tamarind Kitchen, she is currently writing her first cookery book which is due to be published later this year. I learnt to cook Onions the proper way on this course, which you need to do for this dish.

WP_20150516_16_30_55_ProThe recipe is easily available via google, mine came from a book from Indian Chef Vivek Singh, its purely a co-incidence that he is appearing on Sunday Brunch as I am writing this post, he is one of the UK’s best in Indian cuisine!!

The Onions take about 30-40 minutes to cook, its not a five minute job. The trick is to use your eyes, and cook until you see the Oil separate and then add a little water and carry on cooking, stirring to make sure the Onion does not burn on the base of the pan.

WP_20150516_16_49_01_ProYou need to hold your nerve with this process, it seems as if you are cooking the Onion to within an inch of its life, I used two large Onions and by the time the cooking process has finished and you have essentially cooked all the moisture out of the Onions, there is not that much left.

WP_20150516_16_55_46_ProOnce you have passed the ‘Deep Brown’ stage, set aside to cool down and then blitz in a food processor or use a ‘Stick Blender’. You will have a delicious deep sweet base for the Desi Murgh, and many other Indian dishes as this technique is used a lot.

WP_20150516_17_09_42_ProDuring the Onion cooking stage take your Garlic and Ginger and make a paste, I used about 5 Garlic Cloves and 1 1/2 Inches of fresh Ginger, delicious.

This needs cooking out, see above, before adding the Onion Mixture and cooking for 5- 6 Minutes making sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

WP_20150516_17_13_41_ProThe kitchen will start to fill with amazing aromas by now, adding the rest of the spices like Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Black Smokey Cardamon, Kashmiri Chilli, cooking each one out to remove the powdery taste. A Bay leaf finishes this stage of the cooking.

WP_20150516_17_19_49_Pro Next, Tomatoes are added cooking the sauce base until the Oil splits from the rest of the mixture. I did not have fresh so used a tin of chopped tomatoes which were in the cupboard. Finally add some Yoghurt as per the recipe.

WP_20150516_19_14_00_ProChicken is the protein in this delicious dish, slow cooking for about 45 minutes use whatever you have to hand, Thighs, Breast (cut into chunks) or Legs its up to you. I put mine on the oven on about 150 degrees with the lid on. Make sure the Chicken is cooked if you are using larger cuts with the bone in.

WP_20150516_19_24_22_ProAt the end, add some fresh Coriander and cook on the hob for a further 10 minutes until the Oil splits out again.

I served the Desi Murgh with some Basmati rice that had been flavoured with Clove, Cinnamon, Green Cardamon, roasted Coriander Seeds, I guess it was Pilau Rice without the colouring, a ‘flourish’ of fresh Coriander was also added, I love the stuff!!

It takes a while to prepare this Desi Murgh but the results are delicious, if you like your food a bit hotter, add extra Chilli Powder as the dish is mild and fragrant. Its supposed to be quite a ‘wet’ curry so some Indian bread would go well, I was too tired after a busy week so fried some Popadoms instead!

…………………….Until Next time L8ers………………

The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 5)

FHP Days last few days 043I made this; yep really did, honest, it’s really not too difficult, well it’s not easy either but with a decent Chef guiding you along the way its something anyone can do, with a bit of practice……Oh, and my new good foodie friends Caroline, Sue and Hai Lin, we were having so much fun, cooking, joking and laughing together like a bunch of naught school children. I was the only ‘bloke’ on the cooking course, Carolines’ husband Gerrard was staying in the house with us and took time out to visit some of the local highlights whilst we were cooking, joining us for meals and some of the outings.

It’s a shame that the saying, ‘all good things come to an end’ was true in the case of my Gourmet Explorer Experience, at the amazing French House Party.

In case any of you are wondering, I paid the full price, and the single supplement, the only discount was a few quid I got of the BA flight as I had some Avios points to cash in, so my opinion is based on a considerable financial investment out of my very hard earned money.

Was it a worthwhile investment, HELL YEAH……………

FHP Days last few days 003We were back in the kitchen with Jean-Marc on the last day of cooking and as ever, the level of learning was intense. First job was to make the ‘Choux’ pastry, something I had never done before and it was very hard work indeed, breaking into a small sweat as the Flour and Eggs had the life beaten out of them!!

IMG_0241We started the prep for the Choux Swans first, good job as the various stages involved took some time. Make Choux, find piping bag, can’t find nozzle, improvise, pipe wings (profiterole above, cut in half), pipe bodies, bit like a snail, then make a small piping bag out of grease proof paper and do the necks, then cook until golden and crispy.

IMG_0234Please excuse me whilst I go off on a tangent briefly. Earlier in the week you make recall the Lobster Ravioli we made, the garnish for this was a Lobster Claw and some of the meat chopped finely which had been baked in the oven. We had forgotten it during the excitement of plating up and discovered the tray in the oven when it was too late. So to improvise, we ‘knocked up an amuse bouche’ using the remainder of the creamy lobster sauce and filling some small shot glasses adding some shaved Romanesco for texture and some herb for colour contrast and fresh flavour.

IMG_0244That Jean-Marc fellow is a clever chap and thoroughly decent bloke (as was Robert Abraham in fact), taking Cream of Broccoli Soup to a planet way beyond our solar system.

I tolerate Broccoli, it’s not one of my favourite vegetables but the Creme froide de Broccoli aux moules croustillantes’ was simply outstanding. Whats that I hear you ask, Broccoli Soup with Crispy Mussels. Whats happens at FHP (French House Party) stays at FHP and we learnt a couple of Chef’s tricks to make this dish seriously amazing, so to learn what, you will have to go for yourself.

IMG_0245If, like me, after seeing all this food you are starting to feel a bit full believe me, you should be in my shoes 😉 I’ve never eaten so much SERIOUSLY GOOD FOOD, day after day…….Stuffed is an understatement, with a considerable sense of achievement and I have learnt so much, my cooking confidence has taken a serious shift upwards which makes me feel really good inside.FHP Days last few days 012Today’s main course was really interesting, you can see it in the place setting above before it was devoured by ‘moi’, Gambas roties a l’estragon.

You need some 6/9 calibre Gambas, seriously you do, I believe it maybe a size thing so go for some decent sized Tiger Prawns and that’s about the size we were using.

The potatoes in the pan above were ‘turned’ and stuffed with………..Rhubarb. Yes you read correctly they were quite delicious and a massive surprise, we all thought they would just not work, they did. A rich sauce accompanied the Gambas, with a good glug of Ricard to provide a further hint of Aniseed, (I bought a Litre at Toulouse airport, purely for cooking purposes you understand)!

FHP Days last few days 013I have decided that I will let you into a minor secret tip, its not too secret so I am hopeful my friends and those at FHP will forgive me this one indulgence. Caroline did not get her fingers burnt above whilst cooking this dish, there was more risk from the Mandolin we had to use in order to get very thin potatoes, which sandwiched a couple of Tarragon leaves before being fried in Oil (Or clarified butter for a more golden, and richer flavour). Oops, that’s it, the crispy Tarragon potatoes which were also served with the prawns.

FHP Days last few days 044After lunch we were whisked off to Domaine Gayda, situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees it’s a relatively young winery built in 2004. Dedicated to organic farming methods, Gayda has achieved certification for its ‘Figure Libre’ range and uses traditional hand-picking methods ensuring the highest quality product through focused care, and considerable attention to detail.

IMG_0247The place was spotlessly clean, evening after we had walked through the above area and to the left, where the barrels were ‘sleeping’ the floor was hosed to ensure no ‘nasties’ had crept in on our feet. It would have been rude not to taste some of the wines, we worked our way through 4 or 5 different varieties (I suspect it might have been more).

I decided to invest (it was a quick decision) in a couple of bottles, one being a VERY special late harvest dessert wine, made from three separate grape pickings. Only 3000 bottles have been produced, it was bottled in Jan 2014, from grapes picked on one date in September 2011, and two dates in October 2011, its very special indeed (and delicious).

IMG_0258This year is a BIG year for me, that magical age of 50 is racing towards me and to celebrate, a table at Raymond Blancs’ Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons has already been booked, enticed by the experience of 2 Michelin stars, something I have yet to explore…that is until FHP!

OMG, the itinerary had stated that we were to visit a couple of local eateries whilst on the Gourmet Explorer, but the 2 Michelin Starred La table Franck Putelat in Carcassonne was COMPLETELY unexpected.

IMG_0262The first amuse bouche came out on the ceramic log above, delightful macaroons, filled with a Foie Gras cream, blindingly delicious, little delicate fish balls, with a paper thin crispy coating and intense seafood jellies, on a crisp wafer it was definitely fine dinning. Followed by a beautiful Asparagus Soup, with an Aspic foam and Hazlenut Oil.  AWESOME…….

IMG_0264The first course was a mixture of White and Green Asparagus, with an amazing sauce and poached egg, with textures from local ham.

IMG_0269The main was OUTSTANDING, Pyrenees Lamb head to heart, with Boudin Noir (black pudding), peas and sauce……..and the dessert.

IMG_0271Rhubard, Bergamont leaves, Semolina Cake and Kumquat Sorbet……….Stuffed 😉

FHP Day 1 and 2 005So there we have it, the Gourmet Explorer care of the Award Winning French House Party, a massive thanks to Moira, Robert, Jean-Marc, Regine and Emma for such an amazing time, it should be on your list of top things to do, but be quick as its very popular.

……….Until next time……………………..L8ers

(Oops, in my haste I forgot to mention Andy. Part of the all-inclusive nature of FHP here there is a chauffeur service incuded to collect you from either Toulouse Airport or Carcassonne.  Andy is another member of the team who might collect you, an also take you to one of the restaurants and get you safely back to base, MANY thanks Andy)



The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 4) part deux

FHP Day 4 028Today’s cooking was ‘intense’, I mean that in a positive way as we must have been in the kitchen for about 6 hours, priceless when you have a Michelin starred Chef on hand to tutor and guide you through the most delicious (and visually stunning) dishes.

FHP Day 4 011Take one Monkfish, head removed and do your ‘thing’ with a sharp filleting knife, we set to work preparing our next dish, Medallions of Monkfish with Saffron.

Sounds simple from the description but the reality was completely different! Removing skin, discarding scrappy bits and prepping two beautiful fillets, learning more knife skills on the way it was a great experience.

FHP Day 4 001The Monkfish was to be served with seasonal vegetables (Fennel, Spring Onions, Broad Beans, Carrots and Artichokes) and a rich sauce, enhanced with some Garlic, Squid Ink and Olive Oil which you can just see in the top picture, it tasted sublime.

FHP Day 4 020The starter we prepared is well worth a mention as it required the use of ‘whipping’ cream, which you may recall was going to be a challenge. Bavarois de poivrons doux sour coulis de tomates acidulées, impressive to say the least, a dish of Pepper and Tomato which was very light but absolutely packed with flavour and tasted delish.

This was one of those occasions where we had to slightly adjust the menu, the cream we had would not whip so the use of a small amount of Gelatine was required to get the Pepper Bavarois to the right consistency for ‘quenelleing’.

IMG_0238Mille-feuille translated means a thousand leaves, and I’ve always fancied a go but never got round to it, until now!

Puff Pastry layered with ‘Crème Pâtissière’ it was surprisingly straight forward to do, and has got me thinking about how I could use the Jelly making technique we learnt in the Salmon Tartare dish on the 2nd day with Robert, to create a  dessert layered with fruit flavoured Jelly and Crème Pât, watch the blog for my experiments on this.

We settled down for the evening and chatted over cheese and wine, in fact that was the routine most evenings when we were not out and about in nice restaurants. Its true to say we did eat quite a lot of cheese, and very nice it was too.

Another day beckons tomorrow and more fun in the kitchen, along with another tour, this time a Vineyard.


………………Until next time…………L8ers……….

The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 4)

FHP Day 2 and 3 151Here is a little starter I ‘knocked up’! We were now in the realms of Michelin Star’s, Jean-Marc was really serious about his food (I am not saying Robert was not, Jean-Marc was just a little more intense). We started to work on our first starter, simply described as Spring Vegetable Vol au Vents, yeah right!

FHP Day 2 and 3 128We were all inspired by the way simple vegetables and puff pastry were taken to a level beyond very good. This ‘simple’ dish did take a lot of work, carefully preparing the vegetables, slicing the puff pastry we learnt some new tricks and techniques, (go on the course to find out what!).

Something that became very evident as we ploughed through the lovely recipe book we were presented with on arrival, the quality of the ingredients was exceptional, no expense spared, and the Chefs was of the highest calibre. I also noticed on a couple of occasions where we drifted slightly away from the supplied recipes, having to adjust as something was not available or drifting as it felt right.

FHP Day 2 and 3 133Having prepared the starter it was time to make some Pasta dough for Lobster Ravioli.   Mmmmmmmmmmm

I learn’t the ‘by hand’ technique in Puglia a couple of years ago on another cooking course, 00 flour is difficult to get in some parts of France so we just used normal flour, and it worked really well. The Kenwood mixer with dough hook did the ‘grunt’ and the pasta machine finished the job really well.

FHP Day 2 and 3 136The pasta dough was filled with a decent amount of the Lobster meat, which had been boiled for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water.

We used the carcass of the Lobster to make a rich sauce, that recipe is a secret, the whole dish tasted so delicious but was very light. In this part of France they seem to use Cream more than butter to enrich sauces, which brings me onto another observation, its near on impossible to find whipping Cream, i.e. Cream containing more than 30% butterfat, as we were to find out later in the week.

FHP Day 2 and 3 162Last dish was a ‘simple’ dessert of Chocolate Cups filled with home made Vanilla Ice Cream and served with macerated strawberries.

FHP Day 2 and 3 168We learn’t lots of new skills and techniques as we prepared our first meal with Jean-Marc, he was well humored and we had great fun working out what he was saying (his English is work in progress, but better than my French). A couple of the ladies on the course speak fluent French, but Jean-Marc was always prepared to try English first so the rest of us could understand.

Next time we step into the world of Bavarois.

……………………Until then……………..L8ers….


The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 3) Part Deux

FHP Day 2 and 3 078I was thinking about popping out to ‘le boulangerie’ for a Pain d’Epi but that isn’t going to happen, I am back in the UK but at least the sun has briefly shown itself, the next best thing (and its very good), is a Richard Bertinet loaf which is available from some Waitrose stores, if you live in the South West (ish).

Continuing on with the ‘adventure’ in Gastronomy, we headed off to Bize-Minervois to visit a very special place, ‘LOulibo‘. 

L’Oulibo is an Olive producing co-operative and whilst France only produces a very small quantity of Olive’s and Oil,  L’Oulibo produces the VERY best.

FHP Day 2 and 3 052We were treated to a really interesting tour by an extremely knowledgeable young lady who explained how the co-operative worked, the history of the Olive and the end to end process. The best Olives to eat are known as Lucques, which are a green variety and quite sweet.

I will be honest at this point, I LOVE Olive oil but cannot get my taste buds to appreciate Olive’s, I did bring a jar back though as we did use them in one of the recipes during the course!!

FHP Day 2 and 3 054We ended the tour with a really interesting video, and then a visit to the shop to purchase some produce. Along with the Lucques Olives I did get a jar of Olive and Tomato Tapenade, we had eaten some as an ‘Hors d’oeuvre‘ spread on crispy bread, the previous day.

The menu at the top of the post is for La Marquière, which was our final destination after a stroll around ‘Carcassonne‘, the famous medieval city.

FHP Day 2 and 3 060Carcassonne reminded me of Tallin in Estonia, conical turrets a’top long cylinders of stone, hewn by simple tools and medieval grunt!

Sorry about that, had a bit of a moment as Carcassonne is such a magical place, as are the many restaurants spread around the city walls, and inside the protective shroud of stone.

So, what can I say about La Marquière, EAT THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FHP Day 2 and 3 107First one of the ‘Amuse- bouche‘, Foie Gras, with Gingerbread and and a thin layer of jelly, it was AMAZING………

FHP Day 2 and 3 108Next was local bread, with home made ‘Charcuterie and a lovely spread with plenty of garlic and a soft goats cheese, it was bl@@dy delicious.

FHP Day 2 and 3 110Next was the Foie Gras, sorry, I do love the stuff and when its done well, it’s very good (if you like this sort of thing), it was VERY good and had been prepared with a local Muscat wine an served with two ‘chutneys’, Fig and Onion and Brioche bread.

FHP Day 2 and 3 112For my ‘Plat’, main course in French I went for the Médaillons de Lotte en cocotte, coulis de Crustacés, petits Légumes et pommes vapeur.  Monkfish, Shellfish sauce and Veg!! its was beautifully, subtle, rich and really tasty.

FHP Day 2 and 3 109It would be rude not to have a glass of wine or two when n France, our treat was a 2010 Château du Donjon. Very deep crimson in color, with some toasty aromas from oak ageing, it delivers ripe fruit, vanilla and chocolate aromas, It is full and generous on the palate with a long, powerful finish supported by soft tannin’s. Yeah, it was Awesome……….

IMG_0225I had to order my dessert when I selected my starter and main, I was going for something a bit theatrical a Sphère de chocolat noir de Valrhona, mousse Mascarpone et Girottes. Warm Chocolate Sauce was poured by the waitress and…………. it slowly melts the top of the sphere. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

FHP Day 2 and 3 111Service was spot on, as was the food. This is a family run restaurant, and was lovely and cosy, un-fussy with impeccable food. If ever you are in Carcassonne and looking for somewhere to eat this place comes HIGHLY recommended.

FHP Day 2 and 3 128We had an amazing time learning from Robert Abraham, our first ‘chef d’excellence’ and Midi-Pyrenees Chef of the year as one of his many accolades.

Our next Chef (above) was to be Jean-Marc Boyer, a Paris trained Michelin star Chef, and named as one of the worlds up and coming chefs ‘to look out for’ by world renowned chef, writer and restaurateur Daniel Boulud who runs Le Cirque in New York, considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world…… No pressure then!!!

………………Until next time……………….L8ers……




The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 3)

FHP Day 2 and 3 037This post is being authored as I have to depart back to England, goodbyes have been said to all the other guests, the course is finished and as you can tell, I am a few days behind with updates on how things are going. My flight does not depart till later this afternoon so  I have some time free to ‘chillax’, and reflect on what has been a truly amazing experience, and much needed break from daily life back at home.

One of the reasons for booking this course, apart from learning from 2 awesome chefs and meeting some lovely people, was the chance for a brief visit to the medieval city of Carcassonne, a recce for a future trip planned with the family. More about that later.

FHP Day 2 and 3 049Today we have definitely stepped it up a couple of gears as you can see by the pictures above. These two dishes we created on Sunday morning, along with a ‘stonking’ Chocolate Fondant, believe me, it was spot on……

I’ve never used Agar Agar before, but the thought of making an Orange Jelly from scratch, topped with a Salmon Tartare, and then being able to present it, in a way that was going to be appealing seemed an impossible task!

FHP Day 2 and 3 025All the longer cookery vacations I  have been on follow a similar pattern, discuss the menu first, you are then given a task to complete by the Chef, if you finish you can help one of your colleagues with another task, then come together at the end to learn plating  techniques to make everything look pretty.

As usual, if you want to know how we accomplished the dish above (which was bl@@dy good), book the course and come yourself, although you will probably have to wait until next year, these courses are VERY popular.

FHP Day 2 and 3 014The main course was a Dourade (Black Bream from memory), served with a Spinach and Basil puree, and delicious Artichokes. You guessed it, prepping the fish from scratch and trying to create beautiful looking fillets was the order of the day.

It was the same with the Artichokes, I’ve only eaten them a couple of times, stuffed hearts in Egypt many years ago, and steamed with a Dijon mustard dressing on the cookery course last year. Now we were going to learn another technique and the end result was well worth it. I now feel very confident in ‘le’s art d’artichoke’ !!!!

FHP Day 2 and 3 097Two other highlights of our trip were the chance to eat out at a couple of very good restaurants. Both were in Carcassonne, the first was Restaurant La Marquière a beautiful place to taste amazing food overlooking La Cité de Carcassonne, the second was the two Michelin starred ‘la table de Franck Putelat’

Franck used to work at another famous Carcassonne restaurant la barbacane, which is within the city walls and has one Michelin star, so his pedigree is VERY good.

Talking of Carcassonne, the picture above is in the City at the side of the la barbacane, the chefs taking a quick break before service.

Have to dash for the airport now, watch out for next post.

Until next time………..L8ers……………………..


The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 2) Part Deux!

FHP Day 2 035It’s getting a bit late after another days inspirational cooking, but wanted to continue the theme of wonderment at the fantastic time we are all having at the French House Party Gourmet Experience.

I always consider, when booking these trips who else will be attending, it can be a nervous and challenging time but so far to date, I have to say its been an absolute delight.

FHP Day 2 036The new friends I have made on this trip have been really  lovely people from varied backgrounds, but all sharing a willingness to join in, learn, and share life experiences from all over the globe, which makes the trip so much more enjoyable.

Our host Moira, and her team of committed support staff are on hand to chauffeur, clean, teach, make tea, join in the banter and make the whole experience a really relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable break, from the challenges of daily life we are all trying to escape from.

FHP Day 2 030We did do some significant cooking today, reminiscent of Rick Stein who passed through this area on the Canal du Midi, on the 130 ft 8 berth barge Rosa, whilst filming ‘Rock Stein’s French Odyssey’.

What was on the menu, how’s about Velouté of Carrots and Roasted Langoustine with Caraway, and Thigh of Guinea Fowl, de-boned (by us students), and stuffed with Mozzarella and Lime, served with Green Asparagus.

Robert Abraham, our lovely tutor for the first few days is an inspirational and patient tutor (he needs to be with us lot!), and took us steadily through the stages of making these amazing dishes.

FHP Day 2 012The location of the French House Party couldn’t be better (in my humble opinion). Just up the road is Castelnaudry which was built around a castle in the 12th century, in the heart of the Pays Lauragais.

The nearby Canal du Midi was inaugurated in 1681, some 240km long an amazing constructional feat in its own right.

The 4th Foreign regiment of the French Foreign Legion has had a Garison here since 1976, and the town is the home to ‘Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary‘, the Brotherhood of Castelnaudary’s Cassoulet.

For me, one of the highlights of this short break will be a visit to Carcassonne, a medieval city and some great expectations as we visit a local restaurant.

FHP Day 2 and 3 115

Another busy day tomorrow so until next time…. L8ers……………..





The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 2)

FHP Day 1 and 2 067I thought that it was about time to show you some food as this is a food blog! After arrival on Friday we met Robert Abraham and talked through our activities for the first session of the Gourmet Explorer Course, and was presented with a lovely recipe pack with basic instructions.

Dishes would include Carrot Veloute, Roasted Langoustine, Guinea-Fowl, Tartare of Salmon and Chocolate Fondant, all these would introduce the guests to a number of cooking techniques.

Before all of this was to start, we needed to visit the local market in the town of Revel, so we set of first thing in the morning to search out our ingredients.

FHP Day 1 and 2 017I LOVE cheese and the merry chappy above invited us to have a go at using a traditional cheese wire and when we returned, have a go at mixing the Aligot with a ‘raft paddle’, it seemed like one at least.

FHP Day 1 and 2 018Our first chef tutor Robert is no spring chicken but boy, can he cook. He has over 50 years of cooking experience, his sauces were AMAZING as were his skills and techniques which we were going to learn over several days.

FHP Day 1 and 2 022As expected, the market was an abundance of fabulous produce including beautifully presented fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese and stalls cooking local specialities such a Aligot (Potatoes, Cheese & Garlic, creamed with a large paddle).

After our trip round the market we headed back to start cooking for real.

FHP Day 1 and 2 061Each day we typically have 2 x three course meals to prepare, one for lunch and one for the evening, except when we are visiting a local restaurant to take a break. There is always cheese to finish so there is absolutely no chance of going hungry!!

The meal is always accompanied by wine, each course has a perfect match for the 1st three days selected by Robert, and excellent choices they were too.

FHP Day 1 and 2 056The first cooking session was ‘relatively’ simple but the food was delicious, we started to learn plating techniques and how to build on flavours in sauces. I am not going to let you into the secrets, as this is a ‘window’ into what is an amazing experience if you want to enhance your cookery skills.

………………..Until next time……..L8ers………………..


The French House Party – A culinary adventure to France (Day 1)

FHP Day 1 and 2 005The alarm fired at 5:15 a.m. on Friday, not the usual expectation of a customer visit but the start of my annual adventure to learn some new cookery skills, eat some lovely food, share worldy travel tales with like minded people, I had been looking forward to this for months.

My destination was the acclaimed French House Party, which has won a number of awards, and as I am finding out, rightly so. Set in a picturesque area of France, about 45 minutes from Toulouse its an easy destination to get to, in my case via a BA flight from Heathrow.

On arrival I was collected from the airport and whisked to the small hamlet of Pexiora, which was to be my base for the next 6 days, I was curious as to how many others were on the course, and when they would be arriving.

FHP Day 1 and 2 044The location is ‘Stunning’, Birds chirping, Hares hopping and only a 10 minute walk from the Canal du Midi its in a quiet idyll in the South West Corner of France. After a warm welcome from the host Moira over a cup of tea, I was shown to my room and provided with a comprehensive agenda and all the info I needed to understand what we were going to be doing over the next few days.

FHP Day 1 and 2 014That evening I met the rest of the guests as we set to work in the Kitchen with our first very experienced chef Robert, who has recently retired after a distinguished career. There were four of us taking part and like last years trip, I was the only ‘bloke’ doing the cooking course……!

We learnt how to prepare some canapes, as a way of getting to know each other and ‘breaking the ice’. Simple delights such as ‘Cucumber Sushi’, ‘Aubergine Caviar Mini Croissant’, ‘Red and Black Cherry Tomatoes’ ‘Courgette grillees et Crevettes”, and ‘Chevre Fromage Puffs, we were soon chatting and laughing along as if we had known each other for years.

Shortly after, the bubbles were cracked open and we munched and chatted as Robert prepared the evening meal as a welcome treat. We were delighted to Cream of Pea Soup with Mint, A beautiful Duck breast with spiced sauce, and a melange of desserts, followed by cheese. For each course Robert had selected a local wine that you would not be able to get in the U.K., a real treat.

We all slowly departed to our rooms, in anticipation of what was to follow the next day, our trip to the local market at Revel was scheduled for 9 a.m. after a typical French breakfast. Following that, the 1st ‘official’ lesson was to take place and what a treat that was going to be.

Until Part Deux……………………………..L8ers