May heralds the summer, the day lengthens and the sun begins to warm the bones.

Flowers begin to be abundant, knowing that the last frost has gone. The Queen of all flowers trailing up walls and in hedgerows is the rose, subtle, delicate, and with a scent that has sent kings into a swoon.

The old rose we have pictured captured our hearts, and we hope that you enjoy it too.

13 May 2014

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Cap Ferret

Cap Ferret on the Atlantic coast, not to be mixed up with Cap Ferrat on the glitzier Côte d'Azur, attracts a crowd that prefers understated glamour to bling, even though the odd French movie star may be seen joining in the relaxed lifestyle during the summer. Here you can enjoy riding a bike through the fragrant pine forests, take a stroll past all the beautiful wooden houses, swim, surf or fish.

Everyone meets for coffee and croissant or a canelé cake, at "Frédélian", an institution on boulevard Plage Cap Ferret. In the evening there are many oyster shacks that also serve apéritifs in the garden. For dinner "Chez Hortense" is not to be missed. It's an unpretentious wooden building right on the waterfront, unchanged for decades, which serves good food, especially sea food. A place to enjoy easy living and meeting up with old friends.

14 June 2013

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Un Bon Petit Petit Pois

Petit Pois à la Française.

Here's a classic French way of preparing freshly podded peas. 1.2kg of peas should give you roughly 500 g of peas. Put them in a pan with 30g butter, a tied bouquet of fresh herbs, such as flat parsley, chervil and tarragon or summer savoury if you can find it, and 12 new baby onions, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of salt and the heart of a small round lettuce quartered (you can also use little gem). Mix well, cover with 200ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cook for 20-30minutes, depending on the size of the peas. At the end of the cooking time stir in a further 30g of butter. (Don't even think about calories; this is gorgeous.)

This dish is particularly good with a roast pigeon placed on top with its juices going into the mix (or use a poussin).

25 April 2012

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Parmentier au Confit de Canard

The French parmentier is the closest thing they do to a cottage pie. This one is a luxury version made with Confit de Canard, which is now readily available in the UK.

4 confit duck legs, 650g starchy potatoes, 500g ready to eat chestnuts (in a jar or sachet), 200ml milk, 50g butter, 60g hazelnuts, 2 onions, 4 shallots, 2 cloves garlic, a sprig of thyme, salt and pepper.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into pieces; heat a pan of salted water and cook the potatoes with the peeled garlic cloves, the sprig of thyme and one chopped onion. When the potatoes are tender, add the chestnuts and continue to cook for 10-12 minutes. Drain and take out the thyme, and mash the rest. Add the butter and milk to obtain a smoother, but still firm texture. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Toast the hazelnuts in a hot oven for 5 minutes, allow to cool and chop coarsely. Take off any fat of the duck leg and remove the skin. Shred the meat with a fork. Chop the shallots and remaining onion, sauté until transparent on a low flame, adding a bit of the duck fat. Add the duck meat and fry stirring all the time until the meat is browned and crispy in parts. Remove from heat and add the hazelnuts.

Spread half the mash into the bottom of a gratin dish, followed by the meat and top with the rest of the mash. Put into a hot oven for a few minutes to heat it through. Serve with a mixed salad.

Illustrations by Alice Ray

02 May 2012

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Lamb Shanks with Orange and Saffron

With the unexpected cold snap we'll all want to go back to warming and sustaining winter food. This zesty dish does the trick without being dull.

4 lamb shanks, 2 large onions, 4 untreated oranges, preferably organic, 1 lemon, 1 bunch coriander, 60g slithered almonds, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cumin, a pinch of saffron threads, 60g golden raisins, 1 tbsp. caster sugar, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper.

Mix the juice of the lemon with a tablespoon of sea salt and rub it all over the lamb shanks. Set aside for 15 minutes, then rinse off the mix and pat dry. Rinse and dry one of the oranges and finely zest the skin. Peel the onions and grate them coarsely. Mix the zest, onion, cinnamon, cumin, sugar and the oil and cover the shanks with this mixture all around. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile lightly toast the almonds in a dry frying pan. Set aside.

Brown the lamb shanks gently for 12-15 minutes in a casserole dish or a tagine with the flattened, unpeeled garlic (crush lightly with the back of a knife). Pour over the juice of the 4 oranges and add half the coriander tied together with cooking string as a bouquet. Cover and simmer for 1h30 turning the meat regularly. Remove the garlic and coriander and add the saffron and the dry raisins to the cooking liquid and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Serve hot with the toasted almonds and remaining chopped coriander scattered over the top.

Illustrations by Alice Ray

02 May 2012

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