Valençay cheese

This weekend’s cheese is a Valençay made from goats’ milk. It hails from le Berry, a region in the centre of France which is impossible to find on a map because it’s not a constituency (or equivalent), however all French people seem to know exactly where it is. If you’re talking to a Parisian it’s usually because they have a country home there. The cheese’s distinct shape was apparently inspired by the bell tower on the church in a village called Levroux.

I got this one from the usual place, Julhès on rue du Faubourg St Denis. They give you a choice between a dry, crumbly texture and a softer, fattier one. I’m partial to the latter. The outer casing, which is unappetisingly referred to as “mould” in English (after all, that’s pretty much what it is) is called a “flowery crust” on the official French website. The floweriness is quie apt as it definitely adds to the flavour, as well as providing a contrast to the smooth and silky white cheese inside. And is lovely with the last of this season’s grapes.

Stuffed quail with grapes

quails avec fond 2

This recipe comes from Femme Actuelle, equivalent to Woman’s Own in the UK (we subscribe to it at work, honest).

It’s very easy and very delicious.

Ingredients (for 4 people):
4 quails
1 stick celery
1 onion
1 bunch seedless grapes
20g raisins
60g butter
4 desert spoons honey
2 desert spoons ground almond
1 pinch coriander seeds
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon
Salt, pepper

1. Soak the raisins in a bowl of hot water. Peel the celery with a potato peeler and cut into small cubes. Peel and cut the onions and zest half the orange.

2. Heat half the butter in a saucepan and add the onion and celery, cooking on a low heat until the onion is golden. Take off the heat and add the orange zest, the drained raisins, the ground almond, half the honey, the spices and some salt and pepper. Mix up and then fill the quails with this stuffing. Pre-heat the oven to 210°C.

3. Place the quails in an oven dish. Cut the rest of the butter into small cubes and place on top of the quails. Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

4. Wash the grapes and put them in the oven dish around the quails. Put the rest of the honey on the quails and cook for a further 10 minutes until lightly caramelized.

5. Remove from the oven, place on a serving dish and pour over a couple of spoonfuls of the orange juice, pre-heated ideally. If you can’t be bothered to do this bit it won’t alter the end result significantly.

6. Serve with simple white rice (anything else will clash with the strong flavours in the stuffing)

A celebration

I spotted the Ruinart Blanc de Blanc about 6 months ago at Julhès (a cross between a deli and a wine cellar) on Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis in the 10th district. I was pregnant at the time and frankly really missing not having a drink. So I decided to buy a bottle once ‘on the other side’ and make a celebration of it.

And here we are, I finally have one in the fridge and am waiting for two good friends to come over from Manchester to share it together tomorrow.

Really looking forward to it.