My Warm Christmas in the Prairie

What is Christmas like in our family?

This year's christmas family celebration was like old times filled with laughter, tons of gifts and lots of mouthwatering food and excited children running everywhere.

For a change our family decided to rent a big house in the prairie instead of doing it in our ancestral villa. The place was really magical! It rained all night the eve of Christmas but the sun eventually dropped by on the Christmas day. We had a big chimney that warmed us up all day and night. As usual champagne, white and red wines were flowing, foie gras in all it's form were consumed, delectable dishes of veal, beef, turkey, lobsters and crabs were at rendez-vous without counting of course the endless amuse-bouche we had before taking the main dish. And what is Christmas without chocolate in all it's splendor, French patisseries and cake a real great way to end the evening. After having our coffee we all slept at around 3 in the morning.

If you have a big family like ours, three day celebrations like this requires one heck of a organization and lots of imagination! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!!

Photos: The view outside the prairie, the frozen kaki in the garden, the waggling dog, teh tired mayumi, some of the desserts we had and our christmas decoration. Photo below: Mayumi with this cousin

Vegetable Bouillabesse and a Dinner date with mon Cheri

Remember I promise you a week ago about this romantic "tete à tete" dinner with hubby. Well we finally succeeded in getting a reservation last night to this two starred Michelin restaurant. And I'm warning you this is the first time for me to eat in such classy gastronomic restaurant who's regulars are celebrities (French that is), local politicians, well-off old couples and some food lovers who saved their hard earned money or probably just a lucky couple who received a gourmet check as a farewell gift from some generous colleagues. We fall on that last category of course.

The restaurant is bewithchingly situated at the foot of the famous Les Baux de Provence. Imagine this, a castle and fortress that is spectacularly set a top a rocky hill of the Alpilles mountain overlooking the beautiful Provence. We arrived at the restaurant around 8 in the evening with a temperature of minus three degrees outside. Fleeing the nippy weather with a high heeled shoes wasn't reallly practical specialy if one wants to adore the charming garden of the restaurant. All I remember was that I made a small reflection when I saw a flock of swan swimming comfortably in a Siberian like pond. "How the hell do they do that?" Even the fountain was half frozen. Anyways, it was such a refuge to enter in the warm lobby of the hotel leading to the restaurant. The decoration was sober, nice and clean sans too much frou frou. The table was solely decorated with a long stemmed white rose, the cutleries were not even placed. They were actually dressing our table and bringing in the silver cutleries for every service. I must admit that I have never seen so much people attending to us. The manager brought us to our table chatted with us for few minutes to make us comfortable and propose to bring us a glass of champagne. Then another guy came and brought us the menu card. I'll save you the delicious "blah blah" he made explaining every course. We chose our dishes then came the "wine specialist" holding the wine menu card and then goes our wine orders.

Now are you ready for the real spectacle?

The first set of our amuse-bouches were brought on the table. It started with green olives fait maison (home-made). I brine my olives but I have never tasted anything like that before it was really good and the color was bright bright green. Interesting! Next was a long rectangular plate of three mini-amuse bouche. There was a ginger spice cracker topped with beet root gelée, a spoon of creamy tapenade and black radish stuffed with tuna rillette. They were all beautiful to look at. These three bite-size goodness of different texture was really amazing. After few minutes another girl came with a small verrine of very cold nutty like cream with bubbling concoction on the top. I didn't get the name, hubby told me they were ancient vegetables very commonly used during the Middle ages but is now rarely seen in the market. It was my favorite it was really astonishing how the low temperature of the soup brought a completely different taste.
Then came our first entrée; A velvety like creamy soup of pumpkin with bruscheta of onion confit and slices of fresh black Truffles. What was interesting was how dramatically artistically it was brought on our table; first the semi-concave plate adorned with a bruschetta lightly buttered topped with some onion confit and cream chantilly then after came another serveur to pour delicately the creamy pumpkin soup. Every spoon was really comforting.

The next service was the fish plate. It was red tuna perfectly grilled à la plancha served in the bed of vegetable tagliatelle and bits of Parma ham accompanied with a sauce of balsamic and red wine reduction. I rarely eat fish but this was really good!

The third service was our meat dish, it was a classic lamb dish braised tenderly in red wine, tomatoes and black olives. The meat was accompanied by a creamy polenta in parmesan. The dish was really good but I must admit I regreted for not choosing the other dish proposed by the Chef for it was less traditional.

Of course we needed some pause...... but then few minutes later the serveur arrived with a cart of cheese of all types and of all sizes you could imagine. My special favorite was the creamy fresh goat cheese with fig. Really really good! They have special toasts of raisin bread (pain au raisin) to accompany the cheese that I would really like to know the recipe :-)

Before we had our dessert the serveur came again with a small verrine glass of cream of passion fruit topped with a spuma of coconut cream. This wasnt part of the dessert this was just something to make us busy while waiting for the chef to prepare our dessert.

The grand finale was naturally a chocolate dessert. It was a three layered dessert of three chocolates of different taste and temparature. It was served in an aquarium like glass were in the first layer was an intense chocolate soft biscuit topped with a warm dark bitter chocolate and a very cold mousse of chocolate au lait. There was a praline of hazelnuts on the top of it and scoop of dulche de leche ice-cream beautifully adorned with a long thin piece of black chocolate. If heaven had taste I'm sure it was close to this :-)

We had some coffee and then "again" the serveur brought us a plate of mini mignardises (sweet stuffs) there was Rosemary creme brulée (an interesting taste), Raspberry madeleine and strawberry sablé (biscuit).

It was an amazing delicious night.Verdict; considering the price, this is something we will do again once a year unless some rich kindhearted fellow will offer it for us "again"!

Vegetable Bouillabesse
for 6 persons

Bouillabesse is a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the city port of Marseille.

1 liter of fish stock (about a kilo of fish carcasses)
1 celery chopped
1 carrot
1 onion
1 fennel
one cup of chopped pumpkin
2 tablespoons of Pastis (anis based liquor)
Some boiled vegetables of your choice: broccoli, potatoes, carrots, etc
some olive oil

In a large casserole put your fish stock, celery, carrot, onion, fennel and chopped pumpkin. Bring them to boil. Pass them all together in a mixer and strain. Put it back in casserole, add your pastis, olive oil, salt and pepper and boiled vegetables. Bring to boil. Serve with some croutons.

Beef Wellington Mushroom & Chestnuts and Sauce au Foigras

What was the last embarrassing moment that you had?

My list is long but let me share you the latest one. Imagine this: Christmas shopping rush is everywhere. This is my favorite time of the year not only because of the gifts that I will receive but I always feel great to offer gifts to people I care. And besides who doesn't love shopping, aside from our husbands (of course :-) ). I was garbed with my favorite winter outfit, my bag, my list and my wallet. I decided to go early morning so I have plenty of time to choose before really buying them. I entered the first shop, and there the sound goes, "beep". I disregarded it and continued looking around and eventually decided to go. There the sound went again "beep". I just made few steps and there the security of the shop stopped me. Explaining that I "beeped" and stuff. I gave my bag and everything and they found nothing and let me go. I was disgusted and told them their security alarm must be broken or something. Then I went to go to the next shop. And the same thing happened again ,the security alarm "beeped" once again. So I said "I must leave", but there goes the security to check my stuffs "Again". Believe it or not after the fifth shop and I had the same "beeping" incident I finally decided to go back home. My worst nightmare, in reality. What must be beeping on me? My keys, my bag, my sweater? I have really no idea...Well I'll just be shopping gifts online I guess. I bet you have a lot of embarrassing moments to share too.

By the way, I would like to invite you to check out the beautiful feature write-up about Dhanggit's Kitchen on Femina Magazine. Thanks again Rajani for this!

I am sending a slice of this yummy Beef Wellington with Mushrooms and Chestnuts over at talented Haalo of Cook Almost Anything, this week's host of Weekend Herb Blogging #214, that delicious event pioneered by Kalyn now under Haalo's caring hands. If you want to participate please don't forget to check out the link.

Photos from top to bottom, left to right: The beef freshly cut, the two Mayumi's playing in the kitchen, the plate of beef with veggies before serving, the beef with the knife, and Mayumi trying to write her name.

Beef Wellington with Mushrooms and Chestnuts in Sauce au Foiegras
serves 6- 8 persons

This is a very easy and yet delicious festive dish you can prepare for this holiday.

about 1 and half kilo of beef tenderloin trimmed
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
15 g of butter
4 pieces of parma ham
shallots chopped
about 80 g of chestnuts (i used fresh chestnuts that i boiled and mashed)
250 g of mushrooms (champignon de paris) finely chopped
salt, pepper and lots of herbs: rosemary and thyme
1 roll of puff pastry
1 egg yolk

for the sauce:
15 g of butter
1 small shallots finely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100 g of bloc de foiegras
60 ml of veal stock
1 tablespoon of heavy cream

On a pan with oil and butter brown the beef briefly on all sides. Add salt, pepper and herbs. On the same pan, fry the shallots, mushrooms and chestnuts, add some salt and pepper. You can pass this on a mixer to have a fine consistent texture. Roll out your puff pastry , put your parma ham, spread evenly the chestnut-mushroom mixture and put the beef on the top. Closely evenly the sides of the dough. Be sure you seal tightly the edges. With the brush spread evenly the eggyolk. YOu can make some the designs on the top using your knife. Bake this on a preheated oven at 250°celsius for 20-25 minutes. Set it aside and let it rest for about five to seven minutes before slicing it.

For the sauce, on the pan brown your shallots with olive oil. Add your sliced foeigras. Pour the veal broth and let it simmer for few minutes. Put some salt and pepper. Just before turning off the heat. Add the butter and heavy cream to thicken the sauce.

Orange Charlotte with Chocolate Porto Sabayon

We spend a lot of time watching and whining that in the end we sometimes forget to see the essentials of life. I woke up this morning and realised that despite all my ups and downs, my life is still tasty and delicious. And I know no matter what I am looking forward on much daunting life ahead of me. And that is how my mid-thirty's head work when it turns one year older :-)

Happy Birthday to me!! And don't ask me how young I am for I stopped counting long long time ago!!

I'll spill you the details of my romantic-gastronomic escapade with husband which will take place tomorrow in the meantime if you are curious to know the story of my birth you can check out my old post on this link. See you all soon!

This is my entry for this month's holiday edition of Sugar High Friday hosted by Cherappeno. Charlotte and Sabayon are perfect holiday sweet treats for they are very easy to prepare and yet never fail to impress guests. Sugar High Friday is sweetest blog event ever created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.

Orange Charlotte with Chocolate Porto Sabayon

Chocolate Porto Sabayon Recipe

Sabayon or Zabaglione is an italian cream perfect for your citrus fruit salads. I just added some chocolate and porto to make this sauce even perfect for my charlotte

8 egg yolks
8 tablespoons of sugar
a pinch of salt
1 cup of heavy cream
100 gram of bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of Porto (optional)

In a saucepan melt your chocolate with your heavy cream. Set aside. In another saucepan put your egg yolks, sugar and salt. Whisk over low fire constantly until it becomes and creamy and double in volum. Add the porto wine. Fold in the chocolate mixture until it becomes evenly distributed. You can put them in verrine glasses and serve with your slice of charlotte.

Amuse Bouches

I have had a very fussy days the past few weeks but gratefully things are starting to subside again. Just enough time for me to gasp (& to visit your blogs, apoligies for my abscense) before the shaking and rock & rolling schedule start again.

December is finally here :-) my favorite month for a lot of reasons: my birthday, gifts, Christmas, snow, partying, celebrations and a plenty of pigging out here and there. And speaking of festivity here's the latest menu of the cocktail party I prepared for hubby's "farewell party" in the office. Here's some figures: It took me 4 hours to prepare them,there were about 80 people in their branch who feasted on this and it only took them 30 minutes to gobble them all up.

*Amuse Bouche
Also called an amuse-gueule, is a single, bite-sized hors d'ouvre. The term in French literally means "mouth amuser", for bouche means mouth and amuser is "to amuse" or "to please"

Amuse Bouches Menu

Mini-Pizza of Prosciutto
Quiche Lorraine
Tomato & Mozzarella Tart
Onion Tart
Lamb Turnovers
Italian Sausages Brioche
Salmon and Guacamole Duo
Melon Soup and Jambon Parma
Goat Cheese and Tapenade in Verrine
Warm Fava Beans and Spicy Chorizo Salad

I am sending some of this Warm Fava Beans Salad over at Srivalli of Cooking for all Seasons, this month's host of My Legume Love Affair, an event created by the charming Susan of Well Seasoned Cook.

Warm Fava Beans and Spicy Chorizo Salad
150 grams fresh fava beans
1-2 chorizo, sliced thickly
2 to 3 tablespoons of spicy olive oil
1 big onion
salt, pepper
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
3 tablespoons of sherry wine vinegar
some more olive oil

Start by cooking your fava beans until they are tender. Set them aside. In a casserole put some olive oil and grill your chorizo until they are brown, set them aside. On the same oil sauté your onions until they are wilted. In a bowl toss your onion, fava beans and chorizo together. Mix the vinegar, salt, paprika and olive oil together. Pour them on your salad.

Honey, Fig & Bacon Bread

"comme-ci comme ça"

The house is starting to get empty. Most important stuffs have been boxed already and ready for shipment to our new address, and the rest also now in their carton will be left behind here in France. Choosing which stays and go was really a tough job for me. Asking myself do I need it or can I live without it, put me in such a dilemma. And I must tell you I really have to go a lot of my kitchen gadgets :-( sadly.

But despite this vacuum invading the house we are getting more and more busy with lots of stuffs; my upcoming birthday, the christmas and new year celebrations, last minute appointments left and right. And oh the long list of christmas gifts to buy and pack, whew, tiring but really fun. In other words I'll be probably popping here and there.

And oh, that thing about living my dreams, well nothing really fancy. It's just about buying and having our own beach resort and opening my Italian restaurant. I love sun and the sea, but I don't really eat fish so I needed some pasta and pizza to comfort me by.

Here's an easy bread recipe I'll be sending off to Susan of Wild Yeast for her Weekly Yeastspotting! If you love bread this thing is for you.

Honey Fig and Bacon Bread


for the leavening
1 teaspoon of dry yeast
50 g of flour
2 tablespoons of honey
100 g of water

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients to make your leavening. Mix them well. Let it rise for two hours.

550 grams of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
200 grams of water
200 grams of bacon chopped
200 grams of dry fig chopped

In another bowl put your flour, salt, the leavening and the water little by little. Once the dough does not stick to your hand you dont need to add the rest of the water. Continue kneading until it becomes, soft, elastic and does not stick to your hand. Form in a ball and let it rise for about four hours. Flatten it and make a rectangular shape. On the top cover it with your bacon and fig. Roll it from one side to the other. Let it rise for another 45 minutes. Bake it in a preheated oven at 240° for 35 minutes. If you want a crusty bread put a ramekin with some water during the baking process.