Ode to the countryside

The house

Great weekend in Burgundy. One of those that revolves around catching up with friends (and sleep) and eating great food. On the latter, I’m pretty sure we spent more time at the table than not.

A highlight was cooking in and on a La Cornue, the French equivalent of an Aga, and the crème de la crème of ovens. Named after the industrial versions that were the pride of the French steel producers at the turn of the century, it is said to be made in a way that enables heat to circulate uniformly. We did make a great roast chicken with it.

The house is situated in the  Côte d’Or département which produces most of the best Burgundy wines (“Grands Crus”). Part of it was built in the 11th century, the rest in the 15th. Aside from the beautiful property, there is a great wine cellar and a huge garden containing several vegetable patches, the whole lot enclosed by a moat (a moat!).

The fab wine cellar. This bottle (which we drank and which I would highly recommend) is propped on the bar. I loved the fact that there is a bar in there!

Lovely rainbow chard in one of the vegetable patches

The last of the season’s apples

The funny thing is that I spent my teenage years in England moaning about the fact that we’d moved to a village with a one-bus-a-day service. And now there’s something about the clean, crisp air, the absolute silence at night, the rosemary growing a couple of feet from the house, and the apple trees visible from the living room, which makes me want to be here all the time.

I’m sure the irony will not be lost on my mother is she reads this. Mum, I’m sorry for all the grief I gave you!

Great weekend nonetheless.

Julhès deli (Paris 10)

Was in Julhès (54, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010) on Saturday doing the weekly-ish deli shop. ‘Deli’ doesn’t really do it justice though – I’d call it more a purveyor of traditional and France-produced delicacies (also because I’m in PR).

Said weekly shop usually consists of cheese, some form of cured ham or saucisson, and yoghurts produced by an independent French dairy. The latter have that inimitable sour taste you rarely get with industrial stuff (even though I also buy various Danone products by the vat).

There’s a brilliant selection of wines too, and a sommelier on hand to advise (although he’s your stereotypical mardy Frenchman who can bring down even the most enthusiastic Saturday morning shopper).

Despite the sommelier the place has that unique power whereby you instantly want to remortgage your house so you can buy everything in there. Thankfully I have resisted so far.

A leek week

I love a bit of leek action.

There’s no particular reason for making three leek recipes this week apart from I really like them and they’re in season. And that will do.

First on the list is kedgeree. It is one of my favourite meals and is apparently based on a number of regional Indian dishes with similar ingredients and ‘imported’ to England during colonial times. Any French people reading this will probably be horrified by the mixture of ingredients though. It’s true that rice, haddock, leeks and eggs is a bit of a weird one, but it goes together well and the result is both really tasty and comforting. I make a decent version of this however it’s not as good as my Mum’s which has always been amazing.

Then later in the week we had Jamie Oliver’s chicken in pancetta with leeks. It’s a good mid-week meal because it’s really quick to prepare and there’s a nice mix of flavours, although I will still always prefer chicken thighs to breast.

And last but not least is a side dish I’ve made many times. It’s another Jamie Oliver one, from Jamie’s Kitchen which was published in 2002. It blends leeks, butter, thyme and white wine and is amazing with roast dinners (chicken and the like) or with boeuf bourgignon for example. I’d made rabbit in red wine and they went really well together.

It’s not often that I cook so much mid-week but I really enjoyed it, and particularly in this case as I’m a big fan of leeks. It appears that I’m not the only one – while doing a bit of leek-based research earlier I happened upon the British Leeks site, full of great tips and recipes and well worth checking out.

Braised leeks with wine and thyme


Just like the pasta recipe I’ve made loads of times, this one is from Jamie’s Kitchen which was published in 2002.

It blends leeks, butter, thyme and white wine and is amazing with roast dinners (chicken and the like) or with boeuf bourgignon for example. I’d made rabbit in red wine and re-heated a portion this week. They went really well together.


4 big leeks, ends trimmed and dark green tops reserved
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 bunch of fresh thyme, washed and picked
115g / 4oz butter
2 glasses of white
285ml / 1/2 pint vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Tear back and discard the first two layers on the leeks, leaving the tender whiter flesh. Wash well and slice into 2.5cm / 1 inch pieces. Finally slice the dark green ends of the leeks.

2. On the hob on a low heat, slowly fry the garlic and thyme in the butter with the dark green leek tops until the garlic is softened but no coloured. Add the pieces of white leek and toss them in the butter, then pour over your wine and stock and cover with a cartouche (a piece of baking parchment cut to the size of your dish).

3. Cook in the oven at 180°C for 40-50 minutes (the original recipe recommends 35 minutes but that is not enough in my oven). The butter should emulsify with the stock and wine to create a slightly shiny broth.