A Jewel of the Loire Valley ; Château Villandry

In our new French Culinary Adventure le Calabash take you to the stunning Château of Villandry, the last of the great Châteaux of the Loire built during the Renaissance. The sober elegance of its architecture combined with the charm of its outstanding gardens make this one of the Jewels of World Heritage.

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The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Colombier until the 17th century. Acquired in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I, a new château was constructed around the original 14th-century keep where King Philip II of France once met Richard I of England to discuss peace.
During the French Revolution the property was confiscated and in the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon acquired it for his brother Jérôme Bonaparte.

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Its famous Renaissance gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens. The gardens are laid out in formal patterns created with low box hedges. In 1934, Château de Villandry was designated a Monument historique. Like all the other Châteaux of the Loire Valley, it is a World Heritage Site.

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bonds@lecalabash.fr | http://www.lecalabash.com 

The beautiful historic city of Tours

On a Culinary Adventure with le Calabash we visit the beautiful historic city of Tours where you will explore both the indoor ‘Les Halles’ food market and the twice weekly outdoor market, you will amazed by all the incredible fresh and local products.

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We visit the old town which clusters around place Plumereau; its old houses restored to their former glory. Today this is the place for pavement cafes and people watching in the summer. Stroll the smaller, narrow streets like rue Briçonnet and you step back into the historic medieval city. To the south you’ll find a Romanesque basilica, the Cloitre de St-Martin and the new Basilique de St-Martin. You’re in the place which was once on the great pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. St-Martin was a soldier who became bishop of Tours in the 4th century and helped spread Christianity through France. His remains, rediscovered in 1860, are now in the crypt of the new Basilique.

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The other old part, the cathedral quarter, on the other side of the main Rue Nationale, is dominated by the Cathédrale St-Gatien, a flamboyant Gothic building with 12th-century decorated stonework covering the outside. Inside the highlights are the 16th-century tomb of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne’s two children, and the stunning stained glass.

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bonds@lecalabash.fr | http://www.lecalabash.com 

Cardamom

The queen of spices took time to introduce itself to the French culinary scene. Then it was able, thanks to its lemony flavour and camphor, to attract chefs, pastry chefs and chocolatiers who have learned to manipulate its presence to tame its potential to overpower.

Origin

Both genera are native to India, the largest producer until the late 20th century.

The German coffee planter Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced Indian cardamom to cultivation in Guatemala before World War I and by 2000 that country had become the biggest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world, followed by India. Some other countries, such as Sri Lanka, have also begun to cultivate it.

Elettaria pods are light green, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown.

It is the world’s third-most expensive spice, surpassed in price per weight only by vanilla and saffron.

Known for thousands of years as a perfume and a medicinal plant, it was quickly used in cooking, particularly in pain d’épices from the twelfth century. It is the star of Indian and Asian cuisines, but it is also very popular in Africa and in Northern Europe, where it was discovered by the Vikings.

Finns, Norwegians and Swedes who use it in cured meats, pastries and hot drinks. In France, it was used for a long time in teas and infusions, but chefs and pastry chefs, thanks to their travels, integrate it more and more into savoury and sweet dishes.

Taste

The taste varies depending on the type of cardamom. The green one is considered as the most perfumed, is both peppery and lemony, and one to two capsules are sufficient to flavour a dish for four to six people. The black cardamom, named “grand cardamom” leans towards camphor and has a very strong flavour.

The white cardamom, obtained by the bleaching of the green, reveals a flavour of pine sap.

However, all of them bring an abundance of freshness into a dish.

The ‘le Calabash’ approach to working with Cardamom

Both Alison and Sidney use cardamom when they have the inspiration to introduce an Eastern flair into the dish they are creating. Alison believes that chocolate and cardamom is a marriage made in heaven and her Madagascan chocolate and Cardamom Macaron is an all-time favourite with ‘le Calabash’s’ French clientele.

Sidney, who grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal says that he has known the cardamom from a young age and that each and every time he works with it, that it takes him back to his childhood and the flavours of a Durban Indian Curry.

In powder, cardamom loses its perfume quickly and given its expensive price, it is a shame to use it this way.

The seeds in the capsules must be used carefully to gain more taste. Roast them slightly in a pan or crush them before cooking them. For a long time, cardamom was used in shortbreads, madeleines, muffins, brioches, cakes and crumbles and also go well with pears, apples and citrus.

In the school, cardamom perfumes many pastries like panna cotta, macarons, flans, eclairs and is especially effective in flavouring lemon and chocolate cakes. Red fruits, cardamom and chocolate are a perfect marriage.

Take a ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and explore working with this exotic spice in your kitchen more often.

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Sosaties

Sosaties

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A Cape Malay dish that originated from Malaysia, called Sesates, this is an all time favourite on the South African Barbecue, served with rotis and South African fruit chutney.

Serves 4/6

Ingredients

  • 1kg boned leg of lamb
  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ginger, freshly chopped
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 275ml cups malt vinegar
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 24 dried apricots, soaked in water for 1 hour

Method

  1. Cut lamb into bite-size cubes and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Peel onions and cut into eighths and separate fillets.
  3. Peel garlic and slice thinly.
  4. Gently stir cloves, bay leaves, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, onions and garlic with the lamb.
  5. In a bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, salt and apricot jam together. Pour over lamb and mix. Cover with cling film and marinate in a refrigerator for about 16 hours.
  6. Strain meat and skewer the lamb, onion, apricot and bay leaf evenly on to skewers*.
  7. When grilling on the Barbecue or a grill pan, lightly brush with a little oil.

* if using wooden skewers, soak for 15 minutes in water, as this will prevent them from burning on the BBQ and drying out the meat

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An African Culinary Adventure

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This was our first le Calabash ‘An African Culinary Adventure’ group and since then we have taken nine groups on this adventure to Cape Town? South Africa and Namibia, where we Cook with Local Chefs, over the coals and under the African Stars. We visit the world’s most natural Game Reserve, Etosha, track Cheetah on foot and enjoy the local culture and culinary offering. All four adventures to Africa are fully booked and we are about to publish our 2017 dates.

The 2017 itinerary will be extended by two days and a Fly-in Safari to Sossusvlie and Seriem Canyon


Sossusvlei has monumentally high dunes; their sinuous crests and warm colours changing as the day waxes and wanes. These gigantic star-shaped mountains of sand are formed by strong multi-directional winds; they are at their highest and most spectacular where the west-flowing Tsauchab River empties itself into the Vlei.

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The warm tints of the sand, ranging from apricot to orange, red and maroon, contrast vividly with the dazzling white surfaces of the large deflationary clay pans at their bases. When it has rained sufficiently in the interior for the Tsauchab River to come down and fill the main pan, flamingos and other aquatic birds are drawn to the area.


SESRIEM CANYON

At the park entrance to Sossusvlei is Sesriem Canyon, where centuries of erosion have incised a narrow gorge about 1 km in length. At the foot of the gorge, which plunges down 30 to 40 m, are pools that become replenished after good rains. Sesriem derives its name from the time when early pioneers tied six lengths of rawhide thongs together to draw water from the pools.

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Pumpkin Fritters

As we have Thanksgiving on our doorstep, we thought it would be nice for us to share a classic South African favorite with our American friends. South Africans love Pumpkin and Butternut Squash. Here is a le Calabash favorite and Happy Thanksgiving to all our American Culinary Adventurers.

Pumpkin Fritters
This is a classic Cape Malay dish with sweetness and spice.
Really nice with Lamb, Venison and East Asian Fish Dishes.

It is important to ensure the pumpkin is well drained of all its excess liquid, dry out in a sauce pan by cooking over a low heat without a lid.

A Non-stick pan will work wonders when preparing this dish

Ingredients

• 2 cup cooked pumpkin
• ½ cup flour
• ½ tsp salt

• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 2tbsp caster sugar
• 2 large eggs
• sunflower oil, for frying
• cinnamon sugar for dusting (75% sugar-25% ground cinnamon)

Method

1. Place all ingredients, except eggs in a mixing bowl with paddle and place on slow speed.
2. Add eggs one by one and mix till you have a thick batter. The batter should hold its shape when spooned.
If the batter is too stiff, add a little milk, or if to runny, add a little flour
3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
4. Scoop a heaped tbsp of batter and drop into pan, but ensure they do not touch.
5. Fry until firm and golden brown, flip over and fry.
6. The fritters will puff up slightly, but deflate a bit as you take them out of the pan. To test, press lightly on the fritters and they will tend to spring back up when done
7. Serve hot with plenty of dusted cinnamon sugar.