I had a business meeting recently with one of our suppliers who lives in a famous building by the Harbour in Sydney. He had booked the library in the building as we were going to install some new software on my computer, and that has given us grief over a few meetings already, so we welcomed the peace and quiet.
As he was setting up, I was free to roam the shelves of the library, and my eye caught a white spine with the word "Cuisine" on it - why are you not surprised???.
But I got a surprise when I opened it...
It was a recipe book written and illustrated by no other than Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the French artist famous for his paintings - and his love of life, ladies and absinthe...
I was not aware he had written such a tome, and illustrated it with the most amazing drawings and paintings. I wonder how and where I could find a copy...help is welcome!
I am sure you all know of Claude Monet, king of Impressionists, and famous for his hospitality and cuisine, with his most treasured recipes confined to a "Carnet the Cuisine" duly published in 1989 by Les Editions du Chene. You can buy it in English here.
I know because I bought a copy in Giverny in the summer of 1990, when we visited with our new born boy. We ended up having lunch in one of the restaurant at the entrance of the village (Les Jardins de Giverny), in the garden, and who walked in to share this lovely space ? No other than Mel Brooks and his wife, in France for the American Film Festival.
A few few weeks later, we were sitting at Cafe de Flore in St Germain-des-Pres, and Jack Nicholson passed by, and greeted us with a nice comment on our new arrival.
I wonder if these early encounters have anything to do with the same young boy, now turning 20 next Friday, starting a career in filmmaking...
My mum has written her own "Carnets" for me and here is a sample of a page, showing her recipe of "beurre blanc" a classic French sauce. (see text in our "recipes" page)
Food is all about celebration and connections really, so apart from the exchange of gifts, a tradition anchored in the night of times (dans la nuit des temps...), a birthday would not be complete without the partaking of a nice meal, in this case dinner.
Our boy is away in the Alps riding mountain bikes in Les Gets and off to Castiglioncello in Italy next week, so it is only the three of us.
As you may recall from my last post, we had bought zucchini flowers, goat cheese and scallops from the markets today and I had bought some magret de canard yesterday to recreate a dish that I sampled recently in Melbourne at the Waterfront in Southbank - a very nice place indeed, although you will find a collection of bad reviews for it.
Let's say that I sat at the bar and watched the kitchen buzz, which I really enjoy, and I could not fault any of the dishes being prepared, plated up and served. My meal came quickly enough, the service was attentive and the maitre d knowledgeable about the wine list.
Anyway, moving on to my own kitchen, I prepared baked zucchini with ricotta filling and pecorino as per Carmel's Kitchen recipe (Zav's wife...) and here it is:
Remove the pistils from the flowers and fill with ricotta
Spray olive oil in a baking tray, lay the flowers into tray, season and sprinkle with grated pecorino
Bake for 15mn in oven at 180 degrees Celsius
Serve as an entree.
For the main course, I prepared scallops with duck magret, asparagus and endives.
This is not difficult to prepare, but difficult to serve hot and still rose for the duck, and warm for the scallops...
So, here we go:
Braise the endives until transparent but not fully cooked to keep them almost crunchy.
I achieve that in a pan with a little olive oil, the endives shredded, seasoned and covering the pan with a lid on low heat for 15/20mn. Keep warm in a bowl.
In the same pan, cook the small asparagus and the duck sliced in 3mm thick morsels.
Warm your oven to 120 degrees, place your plates on different trays for 10mn until lukewarm
Plate up the endives in the middle, the aspatragus next to the duck slices and leave enough space in between for the scallops. Put back in the oven after covering with aluminium foil or baking paper to prevent the duck to dry.
Go and enjoy your entree with your guests and a glass of wine.
Then, pan fry the scallops in a large pan with olive oil and some butter, as you want them to cook in a similar way.
30 seconds on one side until brown, then turn them over for another 30 seconds.
Sprinkle with the juice of half a kaffir lime to deglaze the pan.
Remove plates from the oven, plate up the scallops, and serve immediately...yum!
Serve with your favourite Chardonnay and enjoy with no moderation, you are done for the day!
Serve goat cheese with nuts and raisins bread to finish. And enjoy the company of your happy guests:
Happy Birthday, Trish!
July is a busy month for me, as my wife, my sister, my late grandmother and one of my sons have their birthday in July!
So today is my "special girl's" birthday, and we start the day early by going to the Pyrmont Growers Market for breakfast. A quick visit to Zav's stand for zucchini flowers, and to Willowbrae Cheese to have a chat with David and buy some of his goat cheese. Being a gentleman, he offers one to my wife as a birthday present and I buy a tomato fresh curd, my daughter's favorite. Then Tricia hunts for a table in the sun (David mentioned it was -5 degrees Celsius at the farm when they left this morning...so it might be 7 or 8 degrees now here...) and I queue for the goodies, snail and egg and smoked salmon roll, and later for coffee. Then, off for a stroll around and a visit to a new supplier: Lowes Mount Truffles showing the first harvest of the season, amazing! Everybody was haggling for a - small - piece of these marvels...At 2000$/kg, you can probably afford a sample, and it would be enough for a few omelets...
During all that time, we were regaled by Armando Percuoco of Buon Ricordo fame, teaching us how to make the perfect risotto...a bit of an overdose after George's masterclass on MasterChef last night, but an interesting twist on a classic altogether...
Then, off to the Fish Market to buy scallops, and on to Ultimo Wine Centre for a lovely couple of bottles:
Chablis, Domaine Laroche Saint Martin 2007, one of our favourite French Chardonnay. Tricia did the "vendanges" there a little while ago...(http://www.larochewines.com) and Chartreuse de Bonpas Reserve 2007, a lovely Cotes-du-Rhone, blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (www.louis-bernard.com)
It does not really look like a lime, it does not really smell like a lime, and it is more famous for its leaves than its fruit...I am talking about the kaffir lime. see more information on its origin and use here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaffir_lime
Until today, I had never seen one in the flesh, only used the leaves and had no idea what it would look, taste, smell like, until I found some at the fruit & veg shop at the Sydney Fish Market this morning. So I bought some for the modest sum of $2.95, less than a cup of coffee, and certainly more exotic!
When opened, it has a pungent smell, and half of a lime was enough to give an interesting twist to my scallops. But that's a story for my next post...
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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