SEPTEMBER 17-20, 2015, AUTUMN EQUINOX AND LIGHT FESTIVAL IN CHARTRES, FRANCE
Award-winning wine writer James Flewellen, and Cordon Bleu-educated chef and food journalist Jonell Galloway present food and wine tasting masterclasses in the historic French city of Chartres. Comprising dedicated wine tastings, sumptuous meals made from local ingredients paired with regional Loire Valley wines and a unique, “sense-awakening” taste experience, our food and wine holiday courses will help unlock your taste buds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavours and textures present in food and wine. A music festival, with live music in the streets, restaurants, theatres, churches and bars, is held to celebrate the Autumn Equinox and to mark the end of the Festival of Lights. To sign up, please click here or fill in the contact form below.
11 x 7 x 2 in. (28 x 18 x 5 cm) baking dish or deep pie tin 1 box Speculoos ginger cookies Mixed summer fruit, washed and chopped into fat chunks such as apricots and blueberries + banana Cinnamon to taste 1 1/2T – 2 T. dark brown cane sugar 1 1/2 – 2 T. maple syrup, depending on sweetness of fruit Dried chili pepper flakes 500 g Quark* or Séré cheese
Line baking dish with Speculoos to form a crust, covering sides as well as bottom of pan.
Chop apricots, blueberries and banana into large bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Add 1 1/2 – 2 T. of dark brown sugar, 1 1/2 – 2 T. of maple syrup and a sprinkle of dried chili peppers. Mix well. Marinate for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Mix fruit with one large yogurt-size tub Quark (500 g). Leave to marinate for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Pour quark and fruit mixture into pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
*Quark is a fresh cheese made in the Germanic countries. It is not the same as cottage cheese or cream cheese, since it is made by warming soured milk fermented with mesophile bacteria until it coagulates. It can be replaced by labneh, ricotta, mascarpone, thick fromage blanc or strained yogurt, although the flavor and texture will not be exactly the same.
The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting is destined to become a modern classic. Written by Neel Burton, psychiatrist and Oxford professor, and James Flewellen, biophysicist at Oxford – together founders of the Oxford Wine Academy — the book is well stocked with vital information about all aspects of wine, from soil and vine to drinking for pleasure and blind tasting.
Its clear, detailed information will appeal to serious amateurs and experienced professionals alike. The first three chapters tackle the history of wine as well as the principles of viticulture and winemaking, using an approach unique to the authors, reflecting their methodical way of thinking and scientific backgrounds. This section serves as a comprehensive, accessible introduction for less seasoned wine drinkers, giving them a firm technical basis and the curiosity to want to continue learning.
The ensuing twenty-three chapters address the world’s geographic regions, including three dedicated to notable French appellations, sparkling wine and fortified wine, respectively. Chapters are well structured, dealing with the lie of the land, climate, soil, grape varieties, appellations, and wine styles, and give thorough attention to each of these components. The authors explain how to differentiate wines based on the interplay of these factors, and address the effect of appearance, palate and nose and how these interact with one’s senses and perceptions. This section serves as a reference for even the most seasoned wine drinker.
For those interested in blind tasting, the appendices explain how to set up a blind tasting, and include crib sheets by grape and terroir — a most useful reference for those interested in honing their skills — along with international classification systems and food and wine matching.
This is both a user’s manual and a connoisseur’s guide, and its clear and fluent exposition sets it apart from other guides. You’ll keep this reference book on your shelf; its pages will yellow (and possibly purple) and show their wear and tear. You might even pass it on to your grandchildren. That’s how good it is.
A charlotte is traditionally fruit sautéed in butter which is then placed in a mold lined with bread. In our day, the bread is usually ladyfingers, but I’ve used financier, a dense almond flour cake made with beurre noisette, giving it a distinctive flavor.
Insteading of sautéing the strawberries, I’ve marinated them in rum and used the marinade to “wet” the cake, similar to the way the British make trifle.
600 g strawberries 2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon 4 T. rum 3/4 c. water 4 financier cakes, individual size (or other type of soft, but dense, almond cakes) 200 g thick cream 1/2 vanilla bean 2 T. brown sugar
4 parfait dishes
Top strawberries and cut in half. Place in mixing bowl.
Mix in 2 T. brown sugar and cinnamon.
Add rum and water. Mix gently.
Leave for 30 minutes, mixing gently from time to time. A natural sauce should form. If it doesn’t, add a little more water and rum.
Meanwhile, mix cream with vanilla from vanilla bean and brown sugar.
Break up 1/3 of each financier into each parfait cup. Spoon in 1/9th of strawberries into each cup, pouring some juice onto the cake to moisten it.
Cover with 1/9 of cream.
Add two more layers of financier, strawberries and cream, in the same proportions, ending with cream.
Decorate top with bits of strawberry, mint, or dark chocolate.
1 kg or 2 lbs veal shoulder, cut into 2″ x 2″ pieces 12 pearl onions, or the white of 12 small spring onions 1 apple, chopped 4 carrots, cut into large chunks crosswise Apple juice Veal or chicken broth 6 small new potatoes in jacket 4-5 T. flour 2-3 T. butter 1/2 l. or qt.milk Parsley, chopped Salt Pepper
Put veal pieces in large saucepan or stew pan.
Add onions, apple and carrots.
Cover with half apple juice and half veal broth. Salt and pepper.
Simmer gently for 1 hour, then add whole potatoes.
Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked.
Drain broth from meat and reserve it to make white sauce.
Melt butter in a large, deep frying pan or saucepan. When melted, gradually whisk in 3-4 T. flour, mixing until roux starts to gently brown.
Gradually whip in milk until sauce starts to thicken. Continue whipping until all the milk is absorbed. It should be extra thick. If not, put one more tablespoon of flour into a ladle and add white sauce to ladle. Mix well to form a smooth paste, then whip this into white sauce.
Gradually whip broth from stew into white sauce. When smooth and thick, pour this back into the stew.
Gently mix, turning meat and vegetables over in white sauce.
Simmer very gently for 5 minutes, stirring carefully so that meat and vegetables don’t fall apart.
Serve, sprinkling with chopped parsley.
Note: This is often served with rice. If you prefer rice, leave out the potatoes. Small turnips can also be added at the beginning, as well as other vegetables, according to taste.
Most writers want and need to concentrate on the words, not the computer. Computers, by definition, require technical acumen, and many of us have neither the skills nor the desire to learn. The fact is, in today’s world, we must; it will make our lives easier if we do.
Food writers and bloggers do not need extremely powerful computer hardware if they are posting mainly text files. Working with images, however, requires more powerful equipment. Each publisher will require different software and applications.
Software and Applications
If you’re preparing a book in manuscript format, you don’t need a huge desktop publishing package, though that’s what most people seem to end up using. Many authors use Microsoft Word, others swear by a variety of less-common options.
For those writing for print, if at all affordable, I suggest buying Microsoft Word Professional or its equivalent. It offers stricter spelling and grammar checkers and has more complete dictionaries and thesauri for a long list of languages, if you indeed need the language option. Even if you’re doing content writing for online publications, this version of Word will give you a maximum of tools.
If you’re using Windows or another Microsoft operating system, I’d suggest taking a class in how to maneuver it and problem-solve. Whether you’re using Microsoft or Apple, a class in Word is a time-saver in the long run, and it will save you hours of frustration. Learn to use the Format, Insert, View and Tools options, and how to create and use a style sheet. I’ll be giving a summer class in Word for Writers. Fill in the form below to sign up for the class.
Ask the publisher what file format they require, because not everyone will have the most up-to-date versions. If you’re handing in a Word file, it is easy to provide different formats by choosing File, Format, Save As, and then choosing the file format required under Format. When writing for a blog platform, it is easy to transfer your Word files directly into Typepad, Blogger or WordPress using a filter. There may be a bit of formatting cleanup, but it is minimal, and the time it requires is well worth it when you consider all the tools Word provides as compared to a blogging platform.
Which is best, a laptop or a desktop? This is entirely personal.
This depends largely on the space you have in your office or on your desk, and on whether you travel a lot. I have both, because I move around a lot.
Desktops are usually easier to upgrade and upgrades will generally cost less. If you’re running a PC, you can often use generic parts, which can save you money.
If you work with a lot of images, however, the larger the screen the better. I would always choose my iMac over my MacBook for visual work. When you work with images, you’ll also need more capacity in general, i.e. more RAM (live memory), hard disk, faster speed, probably a video card and a sound card, etc. I’m no specialist, but be aware that you need to tell the salesperson that you plan to work with images.
In any case, make sure to get some kind of external backup. This can be in the form of a cloud drive, such as Amazon, Dropbox, iCloud, Google drive or Microsoft Skydrive, or in hardware form. I have a Time Machine as well as a few Seagate portable drives. It’s not the brand that’s all-important; what’s important is that you form the habit of backing up regularly. I started working on mainframes when I was a kid, so I learned to back up every day. I’ve never lost that habit and it’s served me well.
When your hard drive dies, it takes every beautiful image you’ve stored on it, along with every perfectly crafted sentence you’ve ever sweated over. It takes all those hours of your life, and it is often totally unrecoverable. Think hard about that when you’re feeling too tired to make that final effort of backing up every night before turning in.
HARD DISK CRASH
If your hard disk crashes, don’t try and fix it. The first thing to do is turn off the computer.
If you’ve made regular backups, you know you can recover them, and that you haven’t lost much. Data on a crashed hard disk can often be recovered. There are young IT people who do this for a living, or you can take your computer to the nearest computer shop. Just remember, every time you try and recover your data yourself, you are overwriting data, which will make it harder for the professionals to recover it.
Sometimes I think I’m liquefying like an old Camembert.–Gustave Flaubert
History of Camembert
The legend goes that Marie Harel invented Camembert in 1791 in the village of Vimoutiers in Normandy, a froward priest giving her the instructions, which she guarded preciously hidden away. Camembert is not taken lightly in France. In 1928, Alexandre Millerand, former president of France, inaugurated a statue in Vimoutiers in honor of Harel’s great “achievement.”
The legend lives on, despite the fact that the family name Harel has never appeared on the list of cheesemakers or business people in the Camembert region, and that the first historical recording of the cheese was in 1708, well before Harel supposedly lived.
How Camembert is Made
Camembert is made from unpasteurized whole milk, abiding by specific requirements if it is to be labeled “Camembert de Normandie.” The milk is first skimmed, then the lactobacillus bacteria is added as a starter. The milk is left at 12° C to coagulate for several hours and is then heated to around 30° C.
These curds are then sliced vertically and ladled into perforated cheese moulds. This manual operation is repeated four or five times over the space of 40 minutes, allowing the curds to drain off all excess water. After about 12 hours, the cheese is turned over and a stainless steel plate is placed on it, putting pressure on it so that it continues to drain overnight.
The next day, the cheese is removed from the moulds and salted. It is left for a week in a curing room with 100% humidity, where it is turned regularly. Thanks to the Pénicillium candidum in the atmosphere of the room, a natural crust is formed. (Some modern facilities spray the cheese with Pénicillium candidum to start the process.) French regulations require that it then be placed in a curing room with 50% humidity for a week.
The Camembert de Normandie A.O.C./A.O.P. is then ready for packaging. It is wrapped in plastic and then enclosed in a thin, round poplar box.
There are numerous variations on this process, depending on the manufacturer, but all makers more or less follow these steps, whether on a farm or in a larger establishment.
How to Choose a Camembert
The first thing to look for is the origin. It will probably be Camembert de Normandie or Camembert fabriqué en Normandie. Only Camembert de Normandie is made from raw milk and and has the legal right to bear the A.O.C. or A.O.P. label. This category includes some 500 milk producers and 9 or 10 cheese makers. In any case, Camembert de Normandie is always hand-made and the dairy cattle have been let out to pasture for a minimum of 6 months. It should always be marked moulé à la louche, indicating that it is hand-made using a ladle.
This name has been protected since 1983, and only represents 4.2% of all Camembert made in France. Look for all these indications on the packaging. Labeling can often be deceptive. Study the images in this article so you’ll be able to tell whether it’s real Camembert and to get a picture of the deceptive practices used. In any case, it should bear this label:
Camembert fabriqué en Normandie simply means it’s made in Normandy. There are no regulations controlling how it is made, so it will most likely be made in a factory, but there are certainly some artisanal cheese makers who for one reason or another don’t qualify for the strict Camembert de Normandie label, but whose cheese is of a high quality.
Then there are manufacturers from other parts of the country who make what they call Camembert. This is usually made with pasteurized milk and most often in factories. We have no way of knowing whether it is made according to the rules of the trade or whether it is good except by tasting. It might even be made with milk from another country.
Camembert should be perfectly round and flat. The crust should be white, but slightly brownish, and should not be cracked. The brownish spotting is the result of healthy mould and ripening. The entire surface should be the smooth and even. The edges should be slightly yellow.
Smell the Camembert. Any whiff of ammonia indicates that it is too ripe. It should smell fruity and ripe like you’d like it to taste, but not overwhelming.
Touch the edges, then press the middle. It should be neither too hard nor too soft.
When you cut into the cheese, it should be light yellow in color and creamy in texture.
Note: raw milk Camembert is best in the spring and autumn.
How to Eat Camembert
The French eat their cheese after the main course, either with or after a green salad. It is eaten as is, at room temperature, with bread, and followed by dessert. Some nicer restaurants will serve dried fruit, jam or nuts with the cheese course.
Let me find what ails you, and set you to “writes”. Whether through modest adjustments or major overhauls, let’s get your prose in good health!
You are a food blogger, but your dream is to become a food writer. Writing is a craft, and like all crafts, it takes time and patience to learn. Think of it as a house. You start with a solid foundation, with a frame and a floor, but you have to finish the building so you can house your family.
Working with a writing coach is like adding a roof, insulation and siding to suit the climate you live in. The climate can be compared to the market or the type of writing you aim to do. You have to hone your writing to that market and meet the expectations of publishers and of your audience. Writing free of spelling and grammatical errors is not enough.
ESCOFFIER’S RECIPE FOR POT-AU-FEU OR PETITE MARMITE
Pot-au-feu and petite marmite in today’s vocabulary are the same thing. Until the nineteenth century, the term pot-au-feu simply referred to a family soup to which was added different ingredients every day, usually with beef and chicken added on Sunday. The regional variations were endless, depending on availability and season and depending on the cook.
In 1829, the French etymology dictionary defined pot-pourri as “the name our fathers gave to the pot-au-feu.” In the nineteenth century, the recipe started to take on its modern ingredients of beef, root vegetables and a veal bone, but it still included chicken, which many people, including my French butcher’s wife, leave out these days.
Escoffier, who codified French cuisine in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, set down the recipe in Le Guide Culinaire in 1902, still calling it petite marmite. The regional variations started to disappear, and the recipe has now been simplified by most home cooks to contain only beef, no chicken. Escoffier insisted on the importance of the chicken, but today, one rarely finds a pot-au-feu with mutton, veal, pork, chicken, duck or turkey. The other name, petite marmite, has pretty much gone out of usage.
The French eat 90% of the foie gras they make themselves. That’s how much they like it, but they didn’t invent it. Although the Egyptians might have force-fed their birds, we’re not sure that they ate foie gras. The Greeks probably did, since the 4th-century Greek poet Archestratus wrote about it in his Gastronomy. The liver is the soul of the goose, he said.
Foie gras is made using a process called gavage, which consists of force-feeding ducks or geese through a feeding tube to fatten them. The Romans stuffed dried figs down their throats. In Latin, the word for liver even comes from fig, ficus. Scipio Metellus, a Roman chef, had the idea of soaking still warm livers in honey and milk to swell them even more before cooking.
Apart from the region of Béarn in the southwest, this practice disappeared in medieval France, coming back to life in the southwest and Alsace during the Renaissance.
French foie gras is made by force-feeding corn to geese and ducks, and still, occasionally, figs, which swells the livers.
Goose foie gras has traditionally been the most cherished because it is fattier, but it cannot be produced year round. Duck liver is less fatty, and can be produced year round and industrially, meeting the ever-increasing demand.
The fattened liver can be made into terrine, pâté, mousse, parfait, and a host of other things, and, in more recent times, there is a trend of cutting fresh foie gras into thin slices and pan-searing it. It can be eaten fresh or preserved in glass jars, and can be seasoned with truffles, port, Armagnac or Sauternes. Southwesterners prefer a simple, less perfumed foie gras, while Alsacians like to add flavor.
When purchasing, there are legal distinctions in names that indicate the purity and therefore determine the price:
Foie gras entier means that it contains the actual lobes of the liver. The only legally allowed addition is truffles. As it’s solid, you cut it with a knife, just like you do extra-tender beef filet.
Foie gras consists of pieces of liver that are put back together and pressed.
Bloc de foie gras is reconstituted liver combined with other ingredients, but containing at least 50% foie gras for goose, and 30% for duck .
Parfaits are preparations containing 75% foie gras and made by mechanical means, to which regular, unfattened liver is added.
Médaillon or pâte de foie de canard or d’oie contains 50% duck or goose foie gras or bloc de foie gras in the middle, surrounded by forcemeat.
Galantine is a butcher’s mixture of meats and other forcemeats, with no defined percentage of foie gras.
Mousse contains 50% foie gras mixed with forcemeat, giving it the texture of foie gras.
Terrine is pure foie gras pressed into pâté shape.
Forcemeat can consist of one or several ingredients, including pork, veal or chicken fat; pork or chicken liver; scraps from deveining; poaching fat; eggs; milk; lactoproteins; flour, and starch.
Foie gras comes in a jar, plastic package or can or fresh from the butcher. When purchasing, be aware of the different cooking preparations, since the temperature at which it is cooked and the method of cooking change the flavor and shelf-life. Generally speaking, fresh is better.
It is important to make sure you are being sold what you ask for in both restaurants and shops. As a consumer, you have a legal right.
The French don’t eat foie gras every day. Traditionally, it is for special occasions and holiday meals, especially Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.