L’Art de Bien Manger Workshops 2019

When we bought our house in this lost corner of France a few years ago, we never imagined that it would develop such a firm hold on us. We thought it was us making all the decisions, but fact is, as we learned over the years, that this house is rather peculiar. I’d call it a haunted house if this term were not so negatively perceived. I therefore rather like to think of it as a ship, a cosy neat little ship, peaceful, with everything you need for the good life, out there in the vast ocean. A very beautiful battered old ship with a long history. We are comfortably off, because apparently, neither of us is its captain, neither of us is in charge. It’s rather that this ship brings us to places so new we hadn’t ever dreamed they existed. For we are lucky, we have a benevolent and experienced captain. Only thing left to us is to make sure we appreciate this ship’s legacy, harbour it, mend it, if needed. And, of course, add to it. This is the best part, I think. And best things are best shared. This is what we intend to be doing even more in the coming year, it is the new shores that this ship is steering us towards. We already see them, faintly chiseled against the glowing horizon, when we climb the ship’s mast. In plain language, what we intend to do, is probably called culinary workshops, or food workshops. Or a cooking atelier. This is all very well, but we have it in our minds to genuinely share our life on this ship. L’Art de Bien Manger, which is not just cooking but after all the spirit that goes along with it. L’Art de Bien Manger with good people for a few days. Of course there will be cooking, lots of it, and wine, and champagne. French dishes and dishes from where we come from and new breeds. Porcelain, crystal glasses and silver. Pique-niques, delicacies cooked under the stars in summer. Bonfires, fairy lights in the trees. A midnight swim in the river for those who really dare (I wouldn’t, neither would Monsieur, because of the thing with the gleaming eyes). But most of all, there will be stories, intervals of our lives shared, a touch of the soul. That’s the Art. 

We start small, with three dates for 2019, three three days workshops:

The early summer workshop (28 – 30 June 2019)

I love the month of June. When the heat is soft and embracing and won’t scourge you yet. The water still fresh and green. The month of Matisse, Renoir, Redon. There will be a pique-nique, and redcurrant with champagne. Strawhats and ribbons. A little wine tasting and brocante. Dinners on a large table, the windows wide open to let in the balmy summer evening. A night walk through the fields. 

The summer workshop (9 – 11 August 2019)

The time of the stars falling from the indigo sky, the fields slowly turning into gold. Of fiery sunsets and nights in shirtsleeves. We will go upriver towards the wild woods and breathe the clean fresh air. Set up our table on the lawn, make a bonfire with sparks matching the falling stars. Cook under the sky, snake bread and bouillabaisse, rusticity and fine china. A feast to please Titania. Wine tasting and brocante, for these are a must. Refresh ourselves with a swim in the river, or row under the canopy of the luxuriant trees. 

The harvest moon workshop (18 – 20 October 2019)

Golden days and fresh nights, elderberry wine with your back against the old warm wall of our house, watching the sun sink slowly into the river. Strolls through harvested fields, hunting for fresh rose champignons. Gather basketfuls of fruit and do some proper moonshining. Champagne cocktails with hawthorn syrup. Transform nature’s bounty and abundance into the finest treats. Comfortably sit in front of the fireplace, with a glass of ruby red burgundy while the trees whip up a storm outside, listen to the stories, tell yours. 

Brief outline: 

The workshops will usually begin around 11am in the morning. We will start with cooking a light lunch together and slowly move into dinner preparations in the afternoon on day one and day two. Dinner will be at least a five course menu, for after all, we are in France. On the third day, we will prepare another light lunch together and round off the workshop with coffee and mignardises in the afternoon. Group size is limited to six persons, to keep it neat and private. 

Cost: 

The cost of participation is EUR 800.- per person. It includes the dinners, lunches, plenty of wine and all that goes along with. It does not include any fares and accommodation. There are very nice B&Bs in the neighbourhood and we are more than happy to direct you to the one that suits you. 

Location: 

The workshops will be held at our private house in the upper north of Franche Comté, halfway between Paris and Zurich, or Dijon and Nancy. It is advisable to come by car. Upon your request we are happy to organise a driver who will get you at your own expense from the nearest airport or train station.  

Please contact us at lespoissonchats@gmx.ch for further information. 

fullsizeoutput_bf4

January Comfort Food

Warm lentil salad. Comfort food. It’s January, dreariness raw wind and heavy clouds. The cold sneaks into your bones, it’s hard to shake it off your skin. Incredibly short days, the world seen through a sleepy foggy filter. January calls for some food remedy, an easy one, no exaggeration, simplicity instead. This is a fairly plain recipe but take your time nevertheless, don’t rush things. Winter food is of a slow cooking type. 

In line with my philosophy, I use a local variety for the salad, called lentilles des Vosges. Green, flat and savoury. But any other variety should do too, feel free to make your choice. I like the green lentilles des Vosges for their buttery taste but after all because I usually get them from the decidedly most charming Fromager, the cheese maker, in the county. Sure he makes excellent cheese and sure he has a range of best quality products from the surrounding farms in stock. But to be honest, he is just such a flattering man, I can’t help it, I always feel a bit elated and very buttered up when I leave his little shop. To put my senses straight, I grab some carrots, leeches and eggs from the farmer’s on my way home. That’s almost all the ingredients you will need to prepare a lentil salad for about four to six persons (depending on whether you’ll serve the salad as a starter or as a main course): 

2 Picardie glasses of lentils (the organic green lentilles des Vosges usually need a little sorting out before put to use. A bit like Cinderella. So not to risk any broken teeth.)

1-2 nice carrots 

1 leech 

A bit of oil (sunflower seed is a good choice because it stands the heat)

3 Picardie glasses of red wine (I like to cook with red in winter, while in summer I’d rather use white, as it’s lighter.)

3 Picardie glasses of water

Herbs to your taste (laurel, thyme and sage, and anything else your heart is telling you)

A bit of chilli

Salt

Xerez vinegar

4-6 eggs

Pepper

A few parsley leaves for the finish

Cut leech and carrots à la paysanne (meaning small little carrot cubes and finely sliced leech). Fry them 2-3 minutes in oil, medium heat only. We want them glazed and not burnt. Add the lentils and fry another 2-3 minutes, so that they shine and sparkle. Increase the heat in the last minute and add the liquids, wine and water, a noisy hiss and steam is capital! 

Add some herbs of your preference. I always use 1-2 laurel leaves, a twig of thyme and 4-6 leaves of sage: Laurel to keep you strong and healthy, thyme to make your tread light and feathery, sage to make you speak wisely and truthfully. And a little chilli to make your heart beat warm in your chest. I leave it up to you how much you’ll need. I usually use half a chilli and add more in the end in case it’s not enough. And salt. 

Cook it over low fire, covered, for a good hour at least. Stir occasionally, breathe the steam, smell. Taste. The lentils are done whenever they feel soft and buttery on your tongue. Season with Xerez vinegar while still hot and let them cool gently in a quiet spot. 

For the poached eggs, fill a large pan with water, add a little vinegar and bring it to boil, gently. The tricky bit: crack the first egg and slip it carefully into the softly boiling water. Don’t worry if it gets jellyfishy. You may wrap the egg white around the yolk with a large spoon. Crack the rest of the eggs with equal care. In order for the eggs not to stick to the pan or to each other, it is important that the pan really is large and wide enough. And that the water boils happily while not overflowing. Poach them for 1-2 minutes, so that the yolk is creamy and smooth. 

Arrange the warm lentil salad on the plates with a poached egg on top each, a whiff of pepper and salt and a couple of grossly chopped parsley leaves. Serve with a light glass of white, an elegant Pouilly-Fuissé for example. Enjoy!