Friday, June 28, 2013

130615 Main Ingredient's MENU - Back from Cognac, Vinexpo, Bordeaux, St Émilion & Médoc, Fish soup recipe

Main Ingredient’s weekly E-Journal
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The view from our B&B at Cherac
In this week’s MENU:                                                              
*       Flying from Cape Town to Bordeaux
*       Chérac and Cognac
*       Ile d’Oléron
*       La Rochelle
Bordeaux, here we come   This week’s MENU has a different format. We are back from France and thought you would like to hear some of what we did while there. Most of it is links to blogs, where we will let the pictures tell the story. Click on the links to see it or just catch them at or follow us on Twitter, @mainingmenu
On Sunday night 9th of June, we flew out of Cape Town to Bordeaux, via a short stopover at Schipol airport, Amsterdam. It was very tiring; the seats were extremely uncomfortable in the Boeing 777, better in the smaller second-leg plane. We picked up our hire car, a diesel Renault Kangoo estate. Highly recommended, it was in the cheapest category - an up-specced van - and had loads of space and all the mod cons we needed: a TomTom (invaluable for finding new places) cruise control, air conditioning, very comfortable seats and it was amazingly quiet and very economical. Diesel in France is cheaper than petrol at about €1.27 a litre. We just had to get used to using a clutch again. We had a two hour drive through lovely green countryside with roses everywhere and arrived at about 7.30 at our first B&B, 2 Route du Puits des Brousses in Cherac with hosts Claudy and Alain Caillaud, between the towns of Saintes and Cognac. After supper in a local restaurant, we retired to a much needed bed after being up for more than 37 hours as neither of us could do more than doze on the plane. See more here.
Cognac   Next day, we drove down the road to a small local producer of Cognac and Pineau des Charentes, a sweet fortified wine. After a tasting, we drove through to Cognac, where we visited a couple of markets. The quality of the produce is so much better than anything we see. Everything is fresh and immaculately presented. More here.
Then the highlight of our day, a visit to Cognac producer H.Mounier, where we were privileged to have a detailed tour of the establishment and to taste some very old and special cognacs from the barrel. They have three websites: . Then via a brief look at Remy Martin, back to Cherac for an al fresco supper of delicious things we bought in the markets.
Saintes is a very pretty town on the River Charente. We visited a very innovative small negociant who buys cognacs of different ages from small producers, bottles and markets them. Guilhem Grosperrin took over his father’s business ten years ago, when he was 23. His father had multiple sclerosis and the business was failing. He is very entrepreneurial and has revived and grown the business. We tasted some superb single vineyard, varietal and very old cognacs. More here.
After this visit, we drove west to the Ile D’Oleron, a largish island linked by a causeway to the mainland where we planned to have a real holiday. More here.
Next day, we explored more of the island and you can see what we saw here.
One day we drove to La Rochelle, an ancient town about an hour to the north, which John visited in 1971. We knew that prices in the restaurants round the harbour would be scary – they were – so Lynne made baguette sandwiches for us, which we enjoyed with a beer on the harbour’s edge. After a few hours’ walking round La Rochelle, we returned for a long walk on the beach on the Atlantic side of the island. Pictures here.
Internet access was sporadic in Oléron and in Cherac, we were able to receive emails, but had difficulty in sending them, so we apologise for any lack of response while we were away. We wanted to send the first part of this edition of MENU, but our mailing software is linked to our South African mail service so, unless you saw it when we posted it as a blog, you’re getting it now.
On Sunday we headed back to Bordeaux, quite early, to be at the start of Vinexpo, which lasted five days. And wonderful, exhausting days they were, walking several miles every day to taste some superb, some OK and frankly just a few really shocking wines. We sampled wines, champagnes and cognacs from France, wines from all over Europe, North and South America, New Zealand and one from Australia (who did not have official representation), and some South African. Our conclusion: You do need to taste wines from all over the world to get wine into perspective but we know that we produce really good wines in South Africa and this visit confirmed it.
Following Vinexpo we had three further days in Bordeaux of which we took one day to motor to St Émilion and the next up to the Médoc and taste some wines there. It has not been a good start to summer in the areas we visited and we experienced a very damp, cold and wet France. We had exactly one and a half days of sunshine and we feel for them. As we left we saw that the rivers have started to flood: the Loire, the Gironde and Dordogne. They were extremely full with all the heavy rain we have had. Another issue was the prices which for South Africans are heavy at R13.40 to the Euro. We only had one dinner and three lunches out, the food at the level we could afford was not great and in fact the best surprise was a simple lunch in a place we thought would be a terrible rip-off, and that was in St Émilion. The supermarkets and street markets are amazing – if only we could have that level of freshness and quality, and it was universal. Gleaming tomatoes, superb vegetables and seasonal fruit, gorgeous cheeses and patés, super fresh fish with shining eyes and seafood displays to amaze and excite. We bought sparingly but we did sample as much of it as we could. Lynne cooked at home after the first few days, as we needed real food. Although the cheeses and charcuterie are fantastic, you can overdose on bread and pastries and one needs freshly cooked, hot food, vegetables and salads. We were saddened to see the results of the recession with so many shops closed and boarded up, even local bakers in Bordeaux seem to have disappeared and the rise of the dreaded Pizza place and hamburger joint can be seen everywhere.
We do have a recommendation. We booked our accommodation mainly through and they are worldwide. The descriptions are very detailed and mostly very accurate and they back them up with lots of reviews. We had a sensational apartment in the historic centre of Bordeaux, in the square with the original Cathedral. It was booked through Homelidays. It was spacious and comfortable and we even had a terrace and a garden full of flowers and birds; we just didn’t have the weather to take full advantage of it, sadly. It belongs to an advocate whose chambers are next door, so we had access to her wifi. We can give you her details if we need them. We paid less that we would have had to pay for an inferior hotel at “exhibition prices”. The difficult part about Bordeaux is the parking. It is all either pay or residential so you have to be out of it by 9 every morning and only back after 7 pm unless you want to pay a Euro per half an hour. Only on Sundays is it free.
This week’s recipe is a classic fish soup we had while on Ile d’Oléron. Lovely for this cold time of year, this is a substantial main course. It looks like a fiddle to make but actually once you have all the ingredients assembled, it is not. The shellfish trimmings and the alcohol are not essential but they do add lots of extra flavour. Next time you are peeling prawns or eating crayfish or crab, freeze the shells
French Fish Soup
5 T olive oil - 3 onions - 3 leeks - 1 fennel bulb – 1 stick of celery – 3 garlic cloves – 500g ripe jam tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes - ¼ t fennel seed - a good pinch saffron, soaked in 2 T warm water - a 3cm wide strip orange peel - 1 T tomato purée - 8 black peppercorns - 1kg fish trimmings and bones, including heads (use white, not oily or smoked fish) - shellfish trimmings such as prawn shells, or crayfish shells (we freeze ours for soup) - 450g skinless white fish fillets (such as hake, monkfish, yellowtail, angelfish, kob, gurnard), cut into chunks (you can mix the fish) – 1 tot of Pernod, Ricard or brandy
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped - 2 egg yolks - ½ tsp cayenne pepper - 150ml olive oil - 4 tsp tomato purée - lemon juice
Grated Gruyère cheese – French baguette slices, toasted
In a frying pan, fry your shellfish trimmings in some olive oil till they are beginning to take on colour and they start to give off a lovely caramelised smell. Chop up all the vegetables and, in a large heavy-based pan, fry them gently in the olive oil until they are soft but not coloured. Then add the garlic and the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Add the fennel, saffron, orange zest, tomato puree, pepper and fish bones and trimmings and shellfish trimmings. Add 2 litres of water and bring to a boil. Let this simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring often.
Strain off the liquid through a fine sieve, pressing the bones and vegetables well to extract the maximum flavour. Discard the solids. Bring the fish liquid to a simmer and poach the fish fillets in it for about four minutes. Add the tot of Pernod and then blitz the soup in a blender and season to taste.
For the Rouille: In a blender blitz the garlic with the yolks and the cayenne then add the oil drop by drop until you have a garlic mayonnaise consistency. Add the tomato puree and then lemon juice to taste then season. You can cheat and use good ready-made mayonnaise to which you add the garlic, tomato puree, cayenne and lemon
Serve the soup hot with toasted French bread slices topped with rouille and gruyère which you then float in the soup.
There is a huge and rapidly growing variety of interesting things to occupy your leisure time here in the Western Cape. There are so many interesting things to do in our world of food and wine that we have made separate list for each month for which we have information. To see what’s happening in our world of food and wine (and a few other cultural events), visit our Events Calendar. It needs updating and we’ll do that tomorrow. All the events are listed in date order and we already have a large number of exciting events to entertain you right through the year.
Learn about wine and cooking We receive a lot of enquiries from people who want to learn more about wine. Cathy Marston and The Cape Wine Academy both run wine education courses, some very serious and others more geared to fun. You can see details of Cathy’s WSET and other courses here and here and the CWA courses here.
Chez Gourmet in Claremont has a programme of cooking classes. We plan to visit their French establishment after Vinexpo. A calendar of their classes can be seen here. Pete Ayub, who makes our very popular Prego sauce, runs evening cooking classes at Sense of Taste, his catering company in Maitland. We can recommend them very highly, having enjoyed his seafood course. Check his programme here. Nadège Lepoittevin-Dasse has cooking classes in Fish Hoek and conducts cooking tours to Normandy. You can see more details here. Emma Freddi runs the Enrica Rocca cooking courses at her home in Constantia. Brett Nussey’s Stir Crazy courses are now being run from Dish Food and Social’s premises in Main Road Observatory (opposite Groote Schuur hospital). Lynn Angel runs the Kitchen Angel cooking school and does private dinners at her home. She holds hands-on cooking classes for small groups on Monday and Wednesday evenings. She trained with Raymond Blanc, and has been a professional chef for 25 years. More info here

27th June 2013
Remember - if you can’t find something, we’ll do our best to get it for you, and, if you’re in Cape Town or elsewhere in the country, we can send it to you! Check our product list for details and prices.
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Phones: +27 21 439 3169 / 083 229 1172 / 083 656 4169
Postal address: 60 Arthurs Rd, Sea Point 8005
Our Adamastor & Bacchus© tailor-made Wine, Food and Photo tours take small groups (up to 6) to specialist wine producers who make the best of South Africa’s wines. Have fun while you learn more about wine and how it is made! Tours can be conducted in English, German, Norwegian or Dutch flavoured Afrikaans.
Recommendations of products and outside events are not solicited or charged for, and are made at the authors’ pleasure. All photographs, recipes and text used in these newsletters and our blogs are © John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus. Our restaurant reviews are usually unsolicited. We prefer to pay for our meals and not be paid in any way by anyone. Whether we are invited or go independently, we don’t feel bad if we say we didn’t like it. Honesty is indeed our best policy. While every effort is made to avoid mistakes, we are human and they do creep in occasionally, for which we apologise. Our Avast! ® Anti-Virus software is updated at least daily and our system is scanned continually for viruses.

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