Friday, 27 February 2009

Ripailles at the Charles Lamb...

Sanchia and I are going all out Breton tomorrow for a pork and cider feast (feast = ripailles).
The main event is the Kig ha Farz, a breton version of the classic pot-au-feu. It involves shin of beef, ox cheeks, ham hocks and marrow bones with a tasty stock which you poach your buckwheat flour dumpling wrapped in linen along with cabbage, turnips, carrots.... Cider is being served throughout the 3 courses of course! We will take lots of pictures, I thinks there will be several recipe blogs, including a first tryout on my apple and boudin noir tarte tatin!
Watch this space...

Monday, 23 February 2009

And the pig jelly...

Forgot to mention, Camille saw a pig shaped jelly mould and thought of me. So I made pig shaped ham and parsley terrine, ( a process involving 8 pig's trotters and numerous other bits of pig) which was to my eyes an aesthetic wonder. Splendid.

Day of the egg

On Thursday we over ordered eggs. Happily, I like making egg based sauces. First some saffron aioli (I'm sure I've mentioned this before, so I'll be brief... 2 cloves of garlic per yolk this time). Then tarragon mayonnaise, then some celeriac remoulade, and finally, a delicious Gribiche which adorned in this case slices of ox tongue, but has previously on our menu been a charming bed-fellow to purple sprouting broccoli, baby leeks, asparagus (soon, soon...), globe artichokes, assorted cold meats, and one hungry morning, a solitary but satisfactory breakfast involving a ramekin and a teaspoon.

Sauce Gribiche:

10 hard boiled eggs
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons oil (rapeseed is lovely, but Olive oil does pretty well too)
Tablespoon white wine vinegar
half bunch chopped chervil
half bunch chopped parsley
smaller amount chopped chives
Handful rinsed salted capers, chopped a little
Sea salt and black pepper

Remove the yolks from the eggs and mash with a fork. Combine with the vinegar and mustard. Slowly incorporate the oil ( you don't have to be as careful as with mayonnaise). Fold in the herbs and capers, and season to taste.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Seasoning pork mince...

You could stuff beef tomatoes (tomate farci),large spanish onions (oignon farci)or bell peppers, make scotch eggs or stuff Squid tubes, mussel shells or large clam shells.... a speciality of Setes , a large fishing port in South West France.
1 kilo of Minced pork shoulder will go along way (3 kilos stuffed 10 large squid tubes and made 16 scotch quails eggs for me today!) 
 3 chopped shallots
 4 cloves chopped garlic
chopped sage, tarragon, parsley and thyme
1 egg
pinch of sea salt ground pepper ... also try fennel seeds if stuffing squid, mussels or fishy stuff ... coriander seeds for tomatoes ... celery salt for scotch eggs..
Above you can see me stuffing some rather large squid tubes ... we ordered small ones, however you can't guarantee what you get when you at the mercy of deliveries! Sanchia made a simple tomato sauce with plenty garlic , shallots etc in it  which got blizted by the hand blender then poured over the stuffed "encornet" covered the tray with foil and in the oven for about 45 mins at medium heat. 

 To serve we made some saffron pilaf rice and we scored the squid  pouring the tomato sauce at the side. 

 I think scotch eggs will have to be another post....

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Charles lamb Menu

It occured to me today that we have never posted a menu for the Charles Lamb Pub on the blog ... so here is a  menu that I was inspired to take a photo of as it had  all my favourites (apart from cassoulet) on it!
We change the menu everyday and usually between lunch and dinner too. Its short and sweet and we tend not to waste ... there are usually backup dishes to move onto the menu if its a particularly busy session.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Cassoulet in Castelnaudary...

The birth place of Cassoulet ... it was only a 2 and a half hour drive from where we were sampling wines so I thought it'd be rude not to! Teamed with a night in Carcassone it was hard for my better half to say no too. The Cardogan Guide to the south of France declared this "the best gourmet restaurant in town". Perhaps it was... 20 years ago! The decor was incredibly OTT and out of date but this was more amusing than off putting. It was cold and raining outside and we were pleased we'd made it in time for lunch sessions last orders (2pm!)
There were many pre fixe menus ranging from €13 through to €45 ... not wanting to go crazy for lunch we picked a 4 course affair at €20. 

Foie  Gras wrapped in sausage meat then a thin rolling of lard covered in trotter jelly galore!
as you can see from the photo, the late seventies decor also made it onto my plate along with tasteless tomatoes and olives(?!)
The Cassoulet came with 2 thin chipolata  sized sausage, a piece of pork knuckle and a slice of pork belly along with a  piece of goose which i couldn't work out where on the goose it was from as it was so small and dry! The beans were plentiful of course and delicious too I just thought the whole dish (which was for both of us to share!) was very mean on the meat. 
After the cassoulet arrived "faisselle de fromage blanc" which was homemade fromage frais swimming in cream sprinkled with white sugar which took me straight back to my childhood.
Finally we got creme caramel with a generous amount of liquor. We had this with a lovely bottle of corbieres.

Here is the Chef ... Monsieur Francois Gibassier ... He probably thought I was some guide book critic! We had a lovely lunch and for the price it wasn't bad. I have a theory that if you are known for one thing, and its as much as a faff as cassoulet you're going to get a bit lazy and cut a few corners after doing the same dish day in day out for 20 odd years ... so Castelnaudary may be the birth place of cassoulet and you may be able to get it in every hotel, restaurant, cafe, bar and bistro in town but it may not be the best you'll ever have!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


I like to think that this is my signature dish. I don't remember having this as a child and my mum has never attempted it (its far to unhealthy for Maman!) although she has had mine and is very complementary of it. The first time I made it for my parents they were about to leave for a trip to France for one of my many cousins weddings, Papa told all his brothers (he has 6 brothers, 5 sisters!) that I had attempted the cassoulet and achieved success ... after such compliment I couldn't help but to endevour to improve it!

Ingredients for a Cassoulet for 6 people
6 duck or rabbit legs
1 litre (about 2 jars) of Goose fat or Duck fat
600g of pork belly
12 toulouse sausages
1 large onion
1 bouquet garni 
6 cloves of garlic
1 bottle of white wine (optional)
Couple of carrots and celery sticks
4 large tins or 8 little tins of Flageolet beans(aprox) or 250 grams of dried Flageolet beans
Any dried pork scraps you may have stock piled!
I sometimes add confit pig cheeks, confit gessier, left over rilletts, terrine or saussison!

Day 1
If you are using dried Flageolet you need to soak them or 24 hours (or at least over night!)
Confit you Duck or Rabbit legs by placing them in a roasting tray and rubbing big salt generously all over them. Add rosemary twigs garlic cloves to the tray and then pour over melted fat until the legs are covered. Cover the tray with foil and place in an oven of about 200c for about 2.5 hours. Remove from the oven and check that the flesh and skin has come away from the bone. Allow to cool before storing in the fridge for the next day.
If you are going to the trouble of confiting for you cassoulet i always think its worth doing a couple more legs as they keep in the fat for at least a week or two. You could shred them and make a duck, orange and chicory salad or even attempt rillettes! You could just reheat in the oven for 20 minutes and serve with celeriac mash and red cabbage.

Day 2 
Put together your stock pot of white wine, water, carrots, celery, bouquet garni & halved onion.
If you are using dried beans them drain them and add them to you pot once its been brought to the boil and add your pork belly (you can cut this into strips about 2cm thick before popping in the pot).

The beans need about 1.5 to 2 hours (they should be over cooked to normal standards but still hold their shape).

Whilst this is going on you need to brown your toulouse sausages in some of the fat from the confit tray and set aside for later. You don't have to cook through the sausages as they will cook through in the dish in the oven later.

Once the pork has been in the stock pot about 45 minutes scoop it out and set aside to cool down. Trim off the skin and layer of fat from the topside of the belly, cut into cubes and set aside for later.

Once the beans are done drain them but keep the stock and set aside. You can discard the bouquet, carrot and celery but keep the onion

Pull your confit legs out of the fat. The skin and flesh should have come away from the bone, hold the bone and gently twist it until it comes free of the internal knuckle.
If you can find the cloves of garlic in the fat pull them out too and with a heaped tablespoon of the fat pop into the magimix or blender along with the onion from the stock pot.

If you are using tinned beans make sure they are well drained and rinsed.

You now have to fry those little cubes of fat  in another spoon of fat from the confit tray. This is a horrid job and I find the best thing to do is keep the heat down and pop a lid on top of the frying pan. Add these to the blender after about 10 minutes and wizz up the fatty oniony mess!

Now you can build your cassoulet... and get fat all over yourself!
Coat the inside of your oven dish with the wizzed up oniony fat. A layer of beans at the bottom of the dish followed by a spoon full of the onion fat on top of which the toulouse sausages then fat then beans then fat then the strips of pork belly and any scraps of pork products you have knocking about then fat then beans then fat then you confit duck or rabbit legs. 
Pour in some of the stock that you set aside earlier into the the dish but don't cover the legs ... you should only just see the stock under the last layer of beans. 
Cover the dish and place in the oven at 300c for 1 hour then turn down the oven to 180c for another 2 hours. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.

Day 3
Preheat the oven to 200c. Reheat your cassoulet for 1 hour until violently bubbling and serve with bread and a green salad on the side.

This dish does take a while to prepare and is a very messy fatty dish to prepare but is worth it and if you confit extra legs you have another meal or so almost ready to go. 
It is perfect for dinner parties as you have only to reheat on the night and enjoy your guests company.
There are cheats... like buying ready confited duck legs so adapt it your self however be aware that the amount of love and fat that goes into will show through in the end product!