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It’s brand new year and the perfect time to try something adventurous in the kitchen.
On a recent trip to France, courtesy of Atout France, I had the chance to get up close and personal with a couple of chefs who put me and a handful of other journos to work in their kitchens.
In Jean-Marc Villard’s Atelier de Cuisine Gastronomique in Champagne au Mont D’Or, I learnt how to make duck pot au feu (stew), served with olive oil and balsamic dressing flavoured with orange, and a fresh summery dessert of almond biscuits (more like little cakes), flavoured with lime and ginger, with a strawberry salad.
We spent the morning cooking up a storm – fortifying ourselves with coffee and bubbly – and then sat down to the sumptuous feast we’d prepared.
The flavours were delicate and both dishes moreish.
Then in Paris, while participating in the first Fête de la Gastronomie, we popped into the Guy Martin Atelier where I tried my hand at herb-marinated salmon with crunchy Napoleon and red beet hummus.
For dessert we produced a traditional tarte tatin with caramel ice-cream and golden apples.
The French are renowned for their cuisine, so it was a fantastic opportunity to pick up useful tips from some of the best.
Now it’s your turn to don the apron and impress your guests with your culinary prowess.
DUCK POT AU FEU (serves 4)
4 duck legs
1 small onion, studded with
130g zucchini (courgettes)
6 strips orange zest
10 crushed peppercorns
2 garlic cloves
4 ttbs olive oil
1.5 tbs balsamic vinegar
juice of half an orange
bouquet garni (small bundle of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf)
pinch of coarse salt
Lightly brown the duck legs in olive oil, skin side down first, then turn. Lightly season the legs with salt and pepper while cooking.
Drain the excess fat from the pot, cover the duck with water, add the pinch of coarse salt, crushed peppercorns and the onion studded with a clove.
Peel 100g of the carrots and add them and the leek to the bouillon (broth) with the garlic, celery and bouquet garni.
Skim off the fat, then add the orange zest to the broth.
Peel the other vegetables, except the courgettes. Cut the carrot, parsnip and courgettes in diagonal slices and the potatoes into quarters.
After an hour of cooking, remove some of the broth to poach the carrots, parsnips and potatoes in. After 10 minutes add the courgettes and cook for another 10 minutes.
After an hour and a half of cooking, remove the duck broth from the heat. Cut the orange zest strips into matchsticks, blanch and finely chop them.
For the dressing, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper and add the chopped orange zest.
Serve in a soup plate with mixed vegetables and coat with the dressing.
HERB MARINATED SALMON
400g fresh salmon
200g white wine
20g rice vinegar
half a bunch coriander
half a bunch chives
4 pastry sheets
200g cooked beetroot
20g tahina (sesame seed paste)
4g cumin powder
20g dried fine breadcrumbs
30g lemon juice
salt and pepper
For the herb peelings:
Chives and coriander leaves
For the salmon: brown the onion with a dash of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the white wine, rice vinegar and sugar. Season.
Let it cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
Chop the coriander and chives and add to the pan.
Pour the boiling mixture on to the salmon and set aside until is has cooled completely.
Cut the marinated salmon into four slices.
For the crunchy Napoleon: cut the pastry sheets into rectangles so that each is the size of the salmon slices.
Brush them with melted butter and bake at 180ºC until golden brown.
For the hummus: put the cooked beetroot, tahina, cumin, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a blender and mix thoroughly.
To serve: place one pastry sheet on a plate, top with hummus, then salmon, more hummus and a final pastry sheet. Garnish with chives and coriander leaves.
TRADITIONAL TARTE TATIN (serves 4)
160g puff pastry cut into circles
6 golden apples
70g single cream
250g full cream milk
2 egg yolks
130g castor sugar
half a Granny Smith apple, julienned
For the tarte tatin: peel the golden apples, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Cut them into pieces that will fit into your pudding tins.
Line the bases of your pudding moulds with wax paper.
Make caramel using 180g sugar and 60g water and pour it into the moulds. Add the apple pieces and cover them with butter.
Bake at 180 C for 12 minutes, then top with a puff pastry circle.
Bake again for a further 15 minutes.
Once golden brown allow them to cool for 3 minutes before carefully removing from the mould.
For the caramel ice-cream: combine 100g of castor sugar and 30g of water on the stove-top to make a brown caramel. Add milk and boil.
Whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the castor sugar.
Add the caramel mixture to the eggs and sugar mix and return to the pot. Heat at 84ºC, using a spatula to mix.
Remove from the heat, filter if necessary and leave it to cool.
Add the cream and freeze in an ice-cream machine.
Serve the apple tart on a plate with a dollop ice-cream topped with Granny Smith strips.
ALMOND BISCUITS WITH STRAWBERRY SALAD (serves 7 to 8)
75g ground almonds
120g powdered (icing) sugar
120g egg white
120g melted butter
1 lime zest
2 tsp ginger powder
1 tbs granulated sugar
4 tbs raspberry coulis
Mix the icing sugar, flour, ground almonds, lime zest and ginger.
Add the unbeaten egg whites and stir with a spatula before adding the melted butter.
Butter small cake moulds and pour the batter in.
Bake at 175ºC for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from the moulds and leave to cool.
Wash the strawberries, remove stems and cut the biggest into quarters.
Add granulated sugar.
Serve the biscuits with strawberries drizzled with the raspberry coulis. - Cape Times