Firstly, apologies for the delay in bringing you the next in my series of Cook In France posts but there was a hen do to attend! Anyway, on with the post.
After a fun morning at the market and a super lunch the day got even better when Jim announced we would be getting creative with caramel. You’d think Chef Jim would be mad to combine 12 home cooks with a hot pan of 185°C caramel and lots of spinning of threads ?? Well he may be a little crazy to be fair (hehe!!) but with his expert advice and demonstration on how to make caramel safely, we all learnt what creative fun we could have to add that special touch to our desserts.
Once Jim had given us the demonstration we each had a go at spinning the sweet gossamer threads over ladles and steels to create caramel cages and springs.
Some of us were better at it than others. I struggled to get the right height and movement at the same time, (one of those pat your head whilst rubbing your stomach moments!!), but my husband delighted in showing me his ease at creating the perfect spring. I have to say in my defence there is a small window of time when the caramel is best to work with, too soon and it is too runny but very soon it becomes too stiff to work with.
We did some different creations, including baskets and springs, before being tasked to make 20 Caramel Sea-Salt Tuilles for Thursday’s dessert.
It was such a fun afternoon as it’s something I’ve watched on TV so many times (you know who you are Mr Martin!) and always wanted to have a go.
Wednesday evenings are free time and an opportunity to dine out and experience the culinary delights of the region. We had scouted out a couple of options in Sarlat that morning for a romantic meal for two, but because we were having such a fun time with our fellow sous-chefs, we decided to join a group of 8 others who were going to dine at one of Jim’s favourite restaurants, just down the other end of the valley.
Le Manoir d’Hautegente is a gorgeous manor house hotel,with a gourmet restaurant that I am sure is heading for a Michelin star.
There was a tasting menu which unfortunately I couldn’t participate in due to foods I have to avoid being pregnant, though at €100 for this with wine it was very tempting. I opted for the mid level Menu which gave you a choice of two dishes for each course, but was fortunately sat next to my very generous new friend Sian, who had the tasting menu, but was keen to share!
That was one of the nice things about the venue, out of 10 diners, just 5 had the tasting menu, but we were all able to sit on a lovely large round table together, something that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the UK, where the whole party has to have the tasting menu.
I did take a few photo’s of the dishes, but not all. We were so busy enjoying the social time with our new friends, this blog post was not on my mind. Hopefully from the pictures below you can see that the quality and presentation of the dishes was excellent.
Because the menu was French, although I was confident in what I had ordered, I wasn’t sure how or what the dishes would be served with. The scallops starter that I had was served with a pickled beetroot and a carrot and mango sauce was just divine with the earthy beetroot being a good contrast to the perfectly cooked scallops. I opted for Turbot for the main as it was a fish I had always wanted to try, thanks to Mr Stein and almost every other chef hailing it as the King of fish. This did not disappoint, it was served on the bone and the delicate flesh just fell off and melted in the mouth. It was served a lovely selection of vegetables, though the lilac coloured cauliflower was intriguing (is this grown like that or had the chef got creative with colouring?), a little avocado blini, and a sauce that was smooth like velvet and full of flavour. For dessert I opted for the Chocolate mousse. This was a work of art (though my photo does not quite do it justice) and was a serious pud (a little too much for some of my fellow diners!) but I ploughed on regardless through the chocolate mousse, topped with a white chocolate lattice and a quenelle of chocolate ice-cream. On the side it was decorated with a crunchy chocolate tuille that was unusual but very moreish.
Other diners were delighted with the following dishes: Foie Gras with melon balls and a melon marmalade; Scallops and Crayfish tails with a carrot puree and seafood emulsion (that had so much flavour!); a rabbit ballantine, stuffed and wrapped in a cured ham with celeriac puree.
The evening was rounded off with champagne in front of the fire which was lovely and it was a truly special night.
The penultimate day to come soon ….