Happiness on a plate

Before my Christmas break I met up with friends at L’Auberge de Combes for a pre-holiday treat!  We were all in a festive mood, so we decided to splash on the Regalade du Chef menu, loosely translated as The Chef’s Feast.  It really was a feast as you’ll see from what follows!

If you’ve read my blog post about one of my previous visits to the restaurant, you may remember that Combes is located high up on the flanks of Mont Caroux.  We were lucky to be given a table by the picture windows of the restaurant.  The day we visited was a ‘moody’ day, with mists rising from the valleys below – it was magical!

The amuse bouche set the tone – three beautiful morsels:  chicken liver parfait with crispy onions, a perfectly cooked razor clam with crispy bacon, and a small pot of cauliflower and wild mushroom soup.

Our starter was a “cappuccino” of wild mushrooms and chestnuts, with little morsels of melsat, a kind of white pudding.

Next came the fish course: a lemongrass risotto with scallops and squid, served with a langoustine bouillon.  The flavours were wonderful and the seafood was perfectly cooked!

Earlier, when we ordered, we had to make a tough decision – foie gras or game?  The foie gras was pan-fried and served on a bed of truffled mashed potatoes, the whole topped with a large slice of black truffle!!  Heaven for lovers of foie gras!!

The game option was equally delicious – venison steak served with the most amazing beetroot puree, braised vegetables and a wonderful potato puree!

Next followed the cheese course, and for this course there were two options: either a plate of four perfectly sized pieces of perfectly ripened cheese!  No fuss, no frills, pure enjoyment!

     – Or toasted sourdough bread topped with roquefort cheese, sliced pears and mixed lettuce – also excellent!

Our meal ended with some ‘fireworks’ of desserts!!

Flambeed banana with vanilla ice cream and crispy wafers.

Chestnut shortbread topped with chestnut mousse and served with chestnut ice cream.

Crispy puff pastry, filled with caramel cream and served with caramel ice cream.

We finished the meal with coffee – it was served in a rather original fashion!!  A table leg had been adapted to hold the coffee cups, spoons and a small plate of oreillettes, crispy deep-fried pastry dusted with icing sugar.  What a way to end this meal!

If you fancy treating yourself to a meal at L’Auberge de Combes, be sure to reserve!  You can find all the contact details on their website.  I am pretty sure that you won’t be disappointed!

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Happy New Year!

May the new year bring us all peace, health and prosperity!!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season!!  Mine was spent in Germany, with family and friends, and the break was relaxing and restful!  It was great to re-connect with cousins that I hadn’t seen in years – there was plenty of catching-up to do!

There are many different traditions in the world to welcome the new year.  In Germany, chimney sweeps, four-leaf clovers and little piggies are some of the things that symbolise good luck – you can buy little gifts with those themes all over the place.

I decided to make little piggies from marzipan, to give as presents to friends and family at the start of the new year.  They are not difficult to make, I promise!!

Here’s what you need:

  • Plain marzipan
  • Red food colouring or beetroot juice
  • A little icing sugar
  • Cloves or nigella seeds for the eyes
  • Slivered almonds for the ears
  • New pennies or one cent pieces

As you can see, I didn’t have new one cent pieces – the bank didn’t have any new ones.  So here’s a trick to make them shine like new:  I mixed a couple of tablespoons of clear (spirit) vinegar with a few pinches of salt.  All I had to do was to add the coins to the vinegar and watch the patina disappear.  Then I removed the coins from the vinegar, and rinsed and dried them. In no time at all I ended up with a nice pile of shiny coins!!

To make the pigs, I broke the marzipan into pieces, added the food colouring (I used beetroot juice) and kneaded the marzipan until it was evenly coloured.  A little icing sugar helped to offset the added liquid, so that the marzipan did not get too soft.

Here’s what it looked like when it was all finished:

For each pig, I rolled one ball the size of a small walnut and five small balls that were a little smaller than a pea.  The larger ball was elongated a little for the body and four of the little balls formed the feet.  The fifth little ball was used to make the snout, flattened somewhat.  I also rolled a tiny little sausage shape for the tail.

With the help of a toothpick I made two holes in the snout, and then I added the cloves and almond slivers for the eyes and ears.  The piggies were finished off with the lucky pennies in their backs.

I used up all the marzipan – it made quite a few piggies and no two were the same!  My little four-year-old nephews helped me count them, and they even gave names to some of them! 🙂

I left the tray with the piggies out to dry overnight.  The following day I wrapped them.  First I cut cardboard discs, which I covered with silver (aluminium) foil.

 I wrapped each little piggie up in some cellophane, decorated the parcel with some ribbons – et voila!

Of course my little nephews each got a piggie on New Year’s Day!  No prizes for guessing – they had eaten theirs before January 2nd!! 🙂