Find 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.When 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.The 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.
Gateau 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.
The 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.
If 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.
Flipping 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.
This 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!
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……………..