After our trip to the market with our French cooking teacher Terresa is was time to head back to her country house, in the Loire Valley, to cook up our summer feast. You can catch up on part 1, if you missed it here.
French food has been on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2010. The “gastronomic meal of the French” — is defined as “a festive meal bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking”. I had to learn more and was sure that there was more to French food than the fried and butter laden dishes I had seen on previous trips to Paris. This trip I was determined to eat french food “my way”, fresh, organic, and bursting with veggies and fruit.
Terresa first took us on a tour of the house which belongs to a friend of hers. The unmistakable French sophistication was visible everywhere in the rustic but homely country cottage. After touring the inside of the house we were led into a secret garden, in the back, where a formal box hedge led the way to a small table which was poised for our lunch.
We unpacked our booty from the morning’s market shopping, tied on our matching cotton aprons and started to take direction from Terresa. The glorious summer sunshine filled the kitchen and we all began to giggle with excitement as the menu for the day was revealed: PANZANELLA (TOMATO-BREAD SALAD), STUFFED “GINORMOUS” ZUCCHINI and STONE FRUIT TART.
The boys, Dave and James, began by shelling fresh garbanzo beans while sitting on the back step in the shade. Both, competent in the kitchen, they couldn’t stop laughing as I don’t think they could quite get their heads around the perfection of our surroundings. These two Sydney siders where so far from their day to day lives and loving the experience.
The salad featured bite sized chunks of country French bread heaven which was toasted lightly in the oven.
Karina showed her pasty making finesse, turning organic flour and butter with a sprinkling of poppy seeds into pasty dough in minutes.
The boys continued to love every minute of the experience, picking herbs and chopping the heirloom tomatoes to bring together one absolutely spectacular salad.
Then it was time to eat! The bread salad couldn’t have hit the plates fast enough as the morning’s preparation has left us hungry for the meal and the new flavours. The casual table setting was prefect for the dish, the surroundings and the occasion.
Luckily for us, Terresa is well connected in the organic and biodynamic wine scene and produced some gorgeous bottles to share with us over lunch. The natural wines we drank: Domaine de Bel-Air – Joel Courtault : Aragonite 2009 (Cabernet franc, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon) and Onyx (Cabernet Franc and Gamay).
With the flavours of fresh garlic and sun-ripened tomatoes still lingering in our mouths it was time to create our second course. The beans the boys had shelled and boiled were added to a hearty mix of sautéed onions, garlic and swiss chard with beautiful fresh herbs.
Lightly backed yellow zucchinis were hollowed out and stuffed with the bean and veggie medley before being returned to the oven.
The finishing touch was a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a final blast in the oven before serving.
Desert was just as much a highlight as the first two dishes. Mirabelle plums which were lusciously ripe and juicy were simply tossed in a little sugar and lemon zest before being baked in the simple pasty case which Karina and I had made earlier.