Monday, August 6, 2012

Travel: Dordogne Day Two

So me and Nick got up this morning ready for a day’s worth of cooking! First of all we had a nice breakfast of bread, croissants, preserves and drinks, and then got down to the nitty gritty. The first thing we did in the morning was learn how to joint a duck. We got the breasts off (to be seared and used in the “farewell meal” on the Friday- something we would miss as Sudocrem was only paying for Monday-thurs- leaving Friday morning) and the legs off to prepare for confit (to be eaten in a salad on the Thursday). The way you prepare confit duck legs is to pat off all the moisture from them, then heavily salt the legs, and then leave them for at least 24 hours (this helps to preserve them). Confit duck is then put in a deep pan covered in duck fat, and the duck fat is slowly brought up to the heat, cooking the duck for about an hour- leaving the meat and fat tender. We then all had a go at the carcass, which we all chopped up for stock. Here is a pic of me with the cleaver hacking away at the wings- very Horror film-y ey??
We then had a nice lazy lunch of pates and cold cuts with fruit and salads prepared by Jim’s kitchen assistant Liz, which was very pleasant. We were all given a little break from the cooking, to either have a splash in the pool or do what we wanted, so Nick and I escaped in the car to have a little drink somewhere. We found this cute little tabac with a table outside and had a pint, and we were just chilling out when randomly another person from the course (Simon) turned up, who we sat and had another drink with. Simon was great fun actually, he’s a architect/ interior designer for houses in all different countries so he travels a lot, and he had some cool stories. Plus he said some funny sarcy comments in his slightly northern accent (he was from Nutsford I think?) throughout the course and I enjoyed that too.
When we got back we were basically preparing everything for our meal in the evening. We made the base and filling for a “Delice au Chocolat”, some crème fraiche ice cream (which Liz put in the ice cream maker for us), made some cous cous “tabouleh” (Jim called it tabouleh but It isn’t what I would consider tabouleh to be, as it didn’t have bulgur wheat or enough herbs in it to be like the traditional Moroccan variety) and diced up a load of veg to be put in a roasting tin to be turned into a “ragout”. We lastly turned our attention to the meat! We created this recipe which Jim seems to be very proud of creating, known as his “23 minute roast leg of lamb”. Basically first of all we “studded” the lamb with sprigs of rosemary, slivers of garlic and little pieces of orange peel (Jim was very fond of oranges- everything we ate seemed to involve it somehow!). We then put it in a roasting pan in a searingly hot oven (like, 250C I think?) for 23 minutes. When it came out of the oven, the pans were double wrapped in foil, and were covered with a load of towels/dishcloths, in order to retain the heat. Basically the lamb could then be left there for a couple of hours, to continue to cook in the residual heat. We were then given a couple hours break to wait until the lamb was ready, so me and Nick decided to whizz off in the car again, after I’d had another dip in the pool.
This time we went and checked out the little village of St Amand du Coly. It’s a beautiful little village, with an amazing old cathedral, and a couple of restaurants/bars. We stopped for a quick drink there, then found this amazing regional produce shop- honestly guys it was like an Alladins Cave, full of walnuts, honey, biscuits, wine, foie gras- everything that was considered traditional for the region, produced locally. I even noticed a bee keeper uniform in the corner of the shop, so I believe they collected the honey themselves from nearby. The shop keeper (in French) at least said that everything in the shop had been produced in St Amand du Coly or within 5 miles of the village. I bought a load of foodie souvenirs back from here to give to my friends and family. We realised here that basically the main specialities of the region are walnuts, duck and mushrooms- which was always confirmed to us at every restaurant, shop or market we went to in the Dordogne.
We went there around 5-ish, and we noticed things were starting to be set up around the town. There was some break dancing going on around near where the abbey was (lol!) and a lot of stalls and a stage were being put up. We then saw a sign that said it was a “regional produce fair”, and that there would be music put on later on, kinda like a fete. Nick said he wouldn’t drink at dinner so that after our meal at CookinFrance we could drive back here to see what it was like.
Dinner was FAB, from basically all the stuff we had prepared during the day- me and one of the guys carved the lamb (not pink enough for me actually but nick was pretty happy with it. Still rather tender) and we all served each other cous cous and roasted vegetables (“ragu”) to go with it. We then plated up all our desserts- the Delice au chocolat, with the crème fraiche ice cream, and a little bit of gold leaf decoration on the top- lovely!
We drove back to the fete and everything was kicking off! The band was playing (a really funny what Nick would call an “Embarrassing Dad’s wedding band”) and loads of foodie stalls were set up. There was some great looking fruit, pastries, cheeses, nuts, foie gras (of course)- but what caught my eye was an awesome looking olive stall. I bought a LOAD of olives with sundried tomatoes, olives with garlic cloves in them, and olives with almonds in them, from a very attractive Frenchman- haha! Nick also bought a nice big chunk of Comte (a delicious nutty tasting French cheese, kinda similar to gouda but with a slightly milder flavour).
We also walked along all the little side streets, and visited the ancient hospital and the abbey (which was lit up beautifully! Very eerie).
The whole fete was great, and what was cool about it was that all of it went on until about 10pm! In England, we wouldn’t be allowed to do it, there’d be like restrictions on how late it could be or annoying neighbours would complain about the “disruption”- but since this event seemed to be by the locals FOR the locals, they were all having a great time and I reckon they all had a lovely night. We got back to CookinFrance around 11pm and had a think about what we were going to do the next day, kinda thinking that it would be nice to properly explore the region and do some sight-seeing (as we picked up a big map/tourist brochure in the village that showed how many cool things in the area that there was to see.

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