We reflect on Ingredients after visiting Lyon and The Bocuse d’Or

As always, Alison and I made our way to Lyon and what we believe to be the pinnacle of culinary competitions on the international stage, The Bocuse d’Or which is held every second year here in France at the Sirha Food Expedition.

This year it was the USA that walked away with this prestigious trophy for the first time in the history of the competition and well deserved it was. France came away with the Gold and are Pastry Champions of the world.

Over the two days we spent in Lyon we made the effort of eating at restaurants around the city and visiting Les Halles Food Market and the Sunday market in the city centre. Les Halles was as always, a fantastic experience and we were in awe at how the locals were enjoying the fresh oysters with a glass of Champagne for breakfast and doing their food shopping taking their time to choose ingredients and chat to the vendors. It was so evident that this was a weekly ritual and that the importance of Fresh, Local and Seasonal Ingredients was paramount to their decision of what to buy.

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For many years now, the title of best chefs, cuisine and restaurants, belongs to no country as there are great chefs in every country and judging by the rather dubious awards and

listings that are thrown out at us each year by so many self-serving corporate brands,journals, newspapers and guides it is difficult to keep track of who reigns supreme from year to year.

We both are privileged to being able to travel extensively each year and wherever we visit we try to visit the local food markets or supermarkets where locals buy their ingredients. Labelling is always top of our list at scrutinizing what the ingredients are and where the produce originates.

This is where we believe the world can learn from the French as we have ourselves have learnt and observed over the nearly fourteen years we have spent here. It is all about Seasonal, Fresh and most importantly Local ingredients which the French strive to use in their kitchen.

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As a family with young children that had just moved to France from the UK the first thing that struck us was that in the schools that our children attended they had chefs that were following these rules and the fact that our children were enjoying asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce at school when it was Asparagus season was just wonderful.

This is a way of life here in France and it all starts at the infant age that children are educated in the home, at school and are even taken on yearly tours of the local food market where vendors take the time to talk and engage with the children. Three meals a day with very little or no snacking is the norm here.

Great restaurants, wonderful and glossy food magazines, celebrity chefs and star studded Food TV shows are all fine, but not if half our population is denied or unable to afford fresh and healthy ingredients since it is just simply unaffordable for them and they find that the only way they can feed themselves and their families is by buying ingredients and meals from multinational supermarket chains and fast food outlets.

Being able to afford healthy food should be a constitutional right not a privilege and all governments should put this at the top of their agendas.

More finance and effort from all those parties who promote Luxury, Fine Dining and Awards should start surfacing as it is becoming more and more difficult for people around the globe to be able to feed themselves with good and honest food. It is children who are mostly at risk and those in power should ensure that the corporate world is held responsible and that profit does not come before healthy meals and the access of nutritious and affordable ingredients to all!

Farmers Markets have become a fad and it is disheartening to see that ingredients can cost up to if not more, than twice the price as the ingredients sold in Multi National Supermarket.

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http://www.lecalabash.fr

Foie Gras, a symbol of French gastronomy

Foie gras is certainly a great symbol of French gastronomy, it is one of the populations favorite luxurious dishes and it belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France. The King of France, Louis XVI, once proclaimed Foie Gras as “The Dish of Kings.” Concretely, Foie gras is the liver of a duck or a goose that has been fattened. As a commodity, it isn’t eaten every day but for special occasions.

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Most French people savor Foie gras especially for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Here at le Calabash we cook with a fair amount of Foie Gras. Sidney has two popular dishes that he enjoys sharing :

  • Foie Gras with Edith’s Chutney, Brioche Toast paired with a Sauternes Wine.
  • Duck Confit with a Cep Risotto topped with pan seared Foie gras, a Balsamic glaze paired with a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc.

A French Culinary Adventure

On a French Culinary Adventure with le Calabash you will embark on a second to none Culinary Adventure, including hands on cooking classes with Alison and Sidney, two professional award-winning chefs.
You will go behind the scenes, meet the local producers and discover their secrets and stories, including cheese, wine and the local markets. You will also discover many of the Loire Valley’s most renowned sites, such as the Châteaux de la Loire and the historical city of Tours.

Book now on our website www.lecalabash.com

One of the world’s most sought after classics, the Macaron.

Today is Macaron day here at le Calabash and Alison shares with you her passion for creating and preparing one of the world’s most sought after classics, the Macaron, on which she has put her own stamp.
The Macaron cookie was born in Italy, introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans who became king of France in 1547 as Henry II. The macaron spreaded thanks to the Renaissance with Catherine de Médicis and many cities made this their speciality: Nancy with the famous “macaron sisters”, Reims, Amiens with honey and apricot jam, Cormery, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Montmorillon, etc.
Abroad, macarons were also found in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Japan and even Argentina or Chili.
The first Macarons were simple cookies, made of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. Many towns throughout France have their own prized tale surrounding this delicacy. In Nancy, the granddaughter of Catherine de Medici was supposedly saved from starvation by eating Macarons. In Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the macaron of Chef Adam regaled Louis XIV and Marie-Therese at their wedding celebration in 1660.
There are two types of macarons: the traditional or the Parisian. The traditional macaron has a cracked, grainy ad crunchy shell on the outside, and the inside melts in your mouth. Le Parisian macaron is round, smooth and in garnished with jam, compote, spices or liquor. Later came the idea to garnish them with ganache or with a cream filling and to transform them into different flavours.
Only at the beginning of the 20th century did the Macaron become a “double-decker” affair. Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree (Laduree pastry and salon de the, rue Royale in Paris) had the idea to fill them with a “chocolate panache” and to stick them together.
Since then, French Macaron cookies have been nationally acclaimed in France and remain the best-selling cookie in pastry retail stores.
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Rungis International Market


Alison and I visit Rungis several times a year and each and every visit we leave filled with inspiration.

Rungis is a dream to any culinary adventurer, a world class fish market, poultry hall, cheese monger market, tripe market, 9 fruit and vegetable pavilions and meat market, just to mention a few.

The market boasts equipment, wine, spice, charcuterie, chef clothing and several fine food specialists for the chefs to visit. There are fine dining restaurants, bistros, boulangeries, bars and cafés on site. The market covers 232 hectares, so large an entire train station and highway exit has been built to serve it.

The Fish, Poultry and Meat market are second to none, when it comes to sheer quality and choice.

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What has always inspired me is the deep knowledge the vendors have of what they sell and the willingness to share and help you in finding what you are looking for.

Walking through the poultry market excites me as much now as it did when I visited the old poultry market there in the mid-70s as a young trainee chef, for nowhere on the planet is there a finer and larger selection of chicken, duck and game birds. Speaking to one of the Poultry vendors on our last visit, he informed us that at present he is airfreighting around 2 tons of produce a day to Japan alone.

When I was Executive chef of Hilton and Le Méridien hotels in London, as well as team captain of The British Craft Guild Culinary Team, I made it a point to take my young chefs on a visit to Paris and an intensive tour of the whole of Rungis.

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This would normally find us leaving London at midday and arriving in Paris and the market at midnight and starting off at the Fish market which opens at midnight and finally ending with a walk through the 9 fruit and vegetable halls at 6.30am, before having breakfast at the bistro attached to the poultry market, sitting down having a Croque Madame and a glass of wine with all the vendors and staff who worked all night. I always refer to them as ‘Real People’ as there is not veneer, what you see is what you get, straightforwardness, no time for fools, hardworking and respect for those who know what they want when it comes to good ingredients, and a knowledge of how the produce should be prepared, for you can be assured, they know! On more than one occasion have I been witness to Chefs making a fool of themselves when underestimating the vendor’s in-depth knowledge of cookery.

It was here that I would always take the opportunity to take careful note of the enthusiasm and interest taken by my young chefs as we passed through each of the halls and pavilions.

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Inevitably the interest and enthusiasm was a sure way of identifying their place in my brigade and the part they would play in it.

Passion and Ingredients are the two key elements needed for success in any reputable kitchen, and where better than Rungis could I identify them.

A young or aspiring chef’s hunger to grasp the knowledge and ability to identify good ingredients is a sure sign of the presence of Passion and inevitably a good indication of a young chef who is serious about his chosen career.

It was and still is the place where I take this opportunity.

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CHIVES –

Taste : Chives have a delicate onion flavor and are a great substitute for onion if you prefer a milder flavor or are cooking for finicky eaters. The tender, mild leaves are eaten raw or cooked in many dishes.
The uses : Toss chives into a dish at the last minute, because heat destroys their delicate onion flavor. Thinly slice them to maximize their taste, or use finely snipped chives as a garnish. Chives are great in dips and quesadillas, and on baked potatoes.

At le Calabash we cook with the freshest ingredients available and 2016 will see us share a herb experience with our clients second to none.

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PARSLEY –

Taste : Mild, slightly grassy and sweet with a hint of bitterness.
The uses : It adds pizzazz to boiled and buttered new potatoes; can be combined with garlic, olive oil and vinegar to make chimichurri, or garlic and lemon zest to make a gremolata, and it’s key ingredients in minestrone and tabbouleh.

At le Calabash we cook with the freshest ingredients available and 2016 will see us share a herb experience with our clients second to none.

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