An Easter Feast with Fresh Flavours
Not far from Bordeaux, Le Gargantua Cooking School offers hands-on cooking and patisserie classes for cooks who want to learn both technique as well as recipes in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. Run by French-born Marlène Deparis, the residential courses cover traditional, every-day and dinner-party food. Here she gives us some recipes to try at home.
Vol-au-Vent aux Asperges
Vol-au-Vent aux Asperges
24 Thin green asparagus
8 Thin white asparagus
250ml Good vegetable stock or milk
Preheat oven to 190°C. Trim and peel the asparagus. Cook in boiling salted water according to size (about 3-4 min if 1 cm in diameter). Cut out eight 8 cm disks in the puff pastry. Cut out 7 cm disks in the center of four of them, to make rings. With water, wet 1 cm all around the disks, and stick the rings onto them. Refrigerate until firm, then quickly egg-wash the surface of the rings before cooking in the oven until risen and brown (about 20 min).
Make a bechamel: melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, cook on low heat while whisking, take off the heat before it starts to colour. Progressively add stock or milk, place back on low heat, stirring constantly. Let it thicken and take off the heat when it starts to boil. Season.
Reheat the asparagus briefly in a frying pan with butter. Cut the asparagus spears to size and place in the puff pastry baskets filled with bechamel, and scatter the cuttings on the plate, drizzle with the butter from the pan.
For the main course in this Easter Feast : A heart-warming Navarin d’Agneau
1.5kg Lamb (neck or shoulder or both), cubed
2 Onions, finely chopped
12 Young carrots
12 Young turnips
5 Spring onions
500g Peas in the pod
1 Bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley stalks)
2 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tbs Duck fat or oil
1 Large glass of dry white wine
1 Tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbs Tomato concentrate
750ml to 1L Chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the fat in a heavy bottomed pan. Season the meat with salt. When the pan is hot, brown the meat on all sides and reserve in a bowl. Sweat the onions, add the garlic, return the meat to the pan. Deglaze with white wine, reduce until the almost dry. Add the cubed tomatoes, tomato paste, enough stock to cover the meat and the bouquet garni. Cook in the oven for 1h to 1h30.
Cook the vegetables separately: Start with throwing the turnips in boiling salted water. After 8 minutes add the carrots. Add the peas, radishes and spring onions after another 10 min. Cook for 6 to 8 more minutes. Drain and cool in iced water, drain again then add to the stew.
Reheat very gently for 10-15 minutes before serving. Do not forget to adjust the seasoning before serving (salt and pepper).
Gratin de Poire aux Amandes
Finish this Easter Feast with Fresh Flavours and a yummy pud: Gratin de Poire aux Amandes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Vanilla extract
For the Almond Cream:
100g Ground almonds
100g Unsalted butter
½ tsp Rum or a few drops almond essence
2 or 3 tbs Apricot jam
Peel and halve the pears, poach in a syrup made with the water, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice for 10-15 min (until tender). Drain and leave to cool. Work the butter with a spatula or whisk to cream it. Add the sugar and whisk until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mix gently. Add the rum or essence, then the almonds. Fill individual dishes half-way with the almond cream, add the pear halves, scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 20 minutes, until the gratins brown. For the best result, melt the apricot jam in the microwave, strain and use to paint the gratins as they come out of the oven. Leave to cool before serving.
First published in the March/April 2020 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Le Gargantua Cooking School