Manger

Joséphine ruffle cake

Now that it is the month of June, the garden has really come to life. Without noticing it, a miracle has happened. Our walls are like romantic fragrant moodboards pinned with hundreds of beautiful shell pink roses. Having only lived in the country-side for less than two years, gardening has become a new passion. I am discovering flowers and plants everyday and getting a whole new level of ‘green’ education. I am fascinated by all the variety of roses, as there are more than three thousand of them. I can just imagine how lucky Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, was when she established the most beautiful rose garden in Malmaison containing all the roses in the world.

Naturally, roses are my main inspiration these days. I wanted to fulfill this visual treat and add some sweetness to it, so I baked a cake dedicated to the rose garden. Roses and ruffles. I love old-fashioned cakes, something out of time and delicate. An edible fantasy turned into reality!

ps: Happy mother’s day to all the French mothers! It’s mother’s day in France today!

Ingredients:

Cake:

225 grs self-raising flour
225 grs butter, at room temperature
225 grs caster sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Mix all the ingredients into a large bowl and use an electric whisk on a low-speed. If you want a layer cake, pour the mixture into 2 non-stick (18cm) tins. I used a bundt cake pan (with a ‘swirled’ top and hole in the middle). Place them in the oven till golden brown 15-25 minutes, or until the ‘test-knife’ comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before decorating.

Buttercream vanilla icing:

140 grs softened butter
150 grs icing/ confectioner’s sugar – sifted
1 tbsp vanilla essence
A pinch of salt
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp red food colouring

Roses for decoration. (Mine are organic)

Mix sifted icing sugar, butter, vanilla essence, salt and milk together in a large bowl. Refrigerate icing in the fridge for 30 minutes so it becomes firm. Sandwich the two cakes with a 1 cm thick icing layer. Fill a pastry bag with the pink buttercream and use a flat line tip for piping (a vertical slit about 1.5 cm length and 3-4mm thick). Start from the bottom of your cake and pipe in a back and forth direction (approx 2-3 cm wide). Repeat all over the cake. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Decorate with beautiful garden roses. Mine are organic.

Days of wine and oysters

Médoc is not only famous for its fine wines but also for some of the best oysters in the world. There are about 350 oyster farmers on the Arcachon Basin producing 10,000 tonnes of oysters a year. The basin has an enclosed bay with an ideal temperature for oyster farming. Oysters are sold everywhere, from markets to any street corner, and during the autumn season, stalls are setting up ‘en force’, getting ready for the winter, where oysters are the main attraction for the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s eve. In summer, the markets open little stalls where you can sit and have plates of oysters, served with a small glass of crisp and fresh white wine. Yesterday, I couldn’t resist buying ‘take-away’ oysters and have them at home for starters. I always serve them with lemons and a red wine vinegar/chopped shallots sauce.

We love going to Cap-Ferret on summer week-ends – it is about an hour’s drive from where we live. Cap-Ferret is renowned for its understated chic, beautiful white sand beaches, amazing pine forests, sand dunes and little oysters cabanons (sheds built on piles with rounded tiles). It is an idyllic place, like a venetian lagoon, where you get a taste of French paradise.

Duck confit parmentier

Duck confit parmentier is a classic Gascon dish, similar to a cottage pie, but with duck meat. It’s the kind of meal I would have as a ‘plat du jour’ (daily special) in a cozy bistrot with red and white checkered tablecloth, a salad on the side and a little glass of Bordeaux red wine. That’s what I call a perfect lunch.

I make my own duck confit – it is very easy and you can prepare it in advance. You can also use canned/preserved duck confit – if that is the case then this recipe will take very little time. I like to serve this duck confit parmentier as a savoury cake – so I bake it in a cake pan with a removable bottom (approx 25 cm). You can choose a classic baking dish if you wish. Serves 4-6.

Duck confit:

5 good-quality fresh duck legs
6 garlic cloves
handful of thyme
4-6 tbsp duck fat
Generous amount of salt and pepper

For the mashed potatoes:

5-6 large potatoes
4 tbsp crème fraîche
4 tbsp butter
30 grs parmesan

For the duck layer:

2 cloves garlic
2 shallots
1 onion
1 glass red wine
handful of parsley
Shredded duck meat from the confit
Butter or duck fat for frying

Cover your duck legs with ‘fleur de sel’ (coarse sea-salt) and rub them well. Cover and leave in your fridge overnight, but you can also salt your duck legs and leave them 2 hours in room temperature. When ready, take out the duck legs (make sure they are at room temperature, I always take out any meat I am about to cook 2 hours before) and place them in a oven-proof dish. Add 4-6 tbsp of duck fat over the duck legs. Add the garlic (with the skin on) and sprigs of thyme and bake in a preheated oven on 200°C for about 2 hours. I would recommend to check the duck legs after and hour and a half. When ready set aside and leave to cool. Separate meat from bones and skin with the help of a fork. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven 180 degrees celsius.

Chop the shallots, onion and garlic and fry in a large pan with the butter or duck fat for 4-5 minutes. Add the duck meat and chopped parsley, deglaze with the red wine, and reduce for 4-5 minutes. Place in the bottom of a the baking pan.

Peel the potatoes, cook them in boiling salted water until tender. Mash the potatoes, add butter, crème fraîche, salt and pepper. Mix well. Top the duck mixture with the mashed potatoes. With a fork, flatten the potatoes to create an even layer. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with a salad on the side.