My Happy Place – Another Trip to The French House Party

Life has been somewhat challenging for a while. New job, multiple bereavements, a 15 year old with ADHD facing exams, a vitamin B12 deficiency making me feel somewhat ’weird’, the news has been ’interesting’, both locally and on a global scale and to be honest, my head needs some space, time to rejuvenate.

Have I ever mentioned I am a bit of a cheese ’nut’. Whilst eating a stunning gourmet lunch at La Barbacane, a 1 Michelin starred restaurant in the centre of Cité de Carcassonne (the ancient citadel) I could not resist the cheese course before dessert, a choice of 5 different goats cheeses, with a truffled honey, it was absolutely delicious.

I have made some amazing new friends on my latest trip to ‘The French House Party’, you should really try it, something different, exploratory if you like, with, in my case a food slant, but boy does it help take away life’s challenges for a few days and gives you a chance to change your focus, learn some new skills in the process, meet new and interesting people and recharge the batteries at the same time. It’s my fourth time here so feels very familiar and like a second home.

The famous and incredible musician and composer ‘Mike Batt’ is here in August for a creative songwriting course! His multitude of hits include ‘Bright Eyes’ – No. 1 in six countries for Art Garfunkel, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ – No. 2 for David Essex, ‘Caravan’ for Barbara Dickson, and ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ and ‘The Closest Thing To Crazy’ for Katie Melua, whom he ‘discovered’ and managed for 10 years, selling 11 million records on his own label!

Carcassonne is a wonder; medieval, old, atmospheric, extremely crowded and hot in the summer, but this is May, it’s mild and there is plenty of space to move about. I am with my new friends in no particular order, Joan, Seamus, Deirdre and Bernard and what a lovely bunch they are, wonderful, full of character, laughing and joking, I couldn’t wish for any other people to be with on my foodie trip, something I did regularly before that dreaded ‘C’ word. We are sharing this adventure of exploration, food, wine, chatting and putting the world to rights.

I don’t want to sound like a moaning old git, but there is something about French Markets, and European markets in general. They are kind of rugged and beautiful at the same time. Dodgy looking vegetables which would unlikely been seen in the UK, rotisseries of Chicken, with their flavoursome fat cooking sliced potatoes served in foil containers for people to take home for lunch. Massive melons, sliced into chunks for people to munch on, every possible variety of Lettuce, Asparagus everywhere, all colours and sizes (the season is well under way) it’s a joy to behold if you have any appreciation of food, and we visited a cracker in Carcassonne, nestled under the ‘younger’ walls of the newer, old city!

I am on the 6 day Gourmet Explorer (for the second time), having also completed the Advanced Course (a couple of times) and this time we have a new tutor in Gregory Legros, a kind, calm and extremely talented Chef, Tutor and maker of wonder. My good friend and 1 Michelin star awarded Jean-Marc Boyer will also be joining us for a couple of days, causing havoc as usual but he is also a kind, patient and extremely talented Chef who I have now known for over 5 years, a dear friend indeed.

Meet Seamus, a cheeky fellow, full of mirth and kindness busy prepping some mushrooms for a super rich………wait for it…….. Porcini and Duck Quiche, well we are in the region famous for ‘Canard’, and Foie Gras of course. The Porcini were dried, so we rehydrated them, and then being careful to remove the grit and nasties, reduced the liquor to a thick syrup a bit like the fluid that collects in Tobacco Smokers pipes, the the gap in the bowl beneath the cup if you have ever seen such things, but shown below to give you an idea!

It was unbelievable being back in The French House Party kitchen with fellow foodie enthusiasts after so long, although I was at a cookery school in November last year, the trip to France, the atmosphere, the location, the weather always gives me an extra level of energy that cannot be described…. And the passion of the French when it comes to food, it’s contagious and difficult to describes unless it’s something that you ‘get’.

During this session we had made short savoury pastry, prepared fillings, stripped confit Duck, made a reduction with the Porcini juice to intensify its flavour and had some fun along the way. The resultant dish was extremely rich, decadent and downright delicious.

I am going to stop now as we have a night out at a local restaurant but suffice to say, I am feeling less anxious, calmer, my head is not so confused about things in general and we have the pleasure of Jean-Marc tommorow.

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

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