It has been ever so long since I last used my French, but this morning, I was in luck. My dearest friend, Y, had invited me to an acquaintance’s home-cum-home décor store for a French cooking demo.
While I had imagined it to be one of those typical classes where a bunch of eager students would gather in an industrial type kitchen for a run-of-the-mill type demonstration, I was in for a very pleasant surprise.
Firstly, the venue was a beautiful 1940s black and white landed home set atop a gentle hill with vast greenery spread out in it’s natural glory, and jackfruit, mango and banana plants generously sprinkled throughout.
Inside the home-cum-showroom was a gorgeous living room and a dining room, all set up with natural wooden furniture and a plethora of accessories, lighting, crockery and linen. The whole setting itself was a feast for my eyes, and we hadn’t even gotten to the cooking and the food yet!
We were warmly welcomed by H on arrival. Soon, our host A arrived and after having cordially offered us some coffee/tea, our demo started. Between them, they demonstrated 3 recipes, each carried out with such effortless flair that I mentally decided to reproduce them that very same evening at home.
The bonus was the air of all things french all around; Our hosts were, after all, french speaking Belgians. The banter that went around as recipes were committed to memory, secret ingredients revealed and tips exchanged, was heart warming. We soaked in the whole atmosphere and it felt as if we had landed right in the heart of Europe, without even having had to take off!
The first recipe that H demonstrated to us was a delicate pear cake. Using a few basic ingredients such as flour, butter and eggs, and some simple creaming and mixing, she produced a gloriously rich batter that was then poured into a bright red, heart-shaped, ceramic mould. Pear halves were then artistically arranged on top of the batter and in it went into the oven. Soon enough, it transformed the entire room into an intoxicatingly sweet and buttery smelling pâtisserie.
While it did it’s magic in the oven, we went on with the second recipe of the afternoon: An authentic french style quiche, demonstrated by A. The pie crust had been prepared before hand and we were shown how the creamy filling was made. Into a large mixing bowl went some eggs, cream, milk and a good sprinkling of nutmeg. Shredded emmental cheese was added, along with pepper and salt and after a good mixing, some stir fried zucchinis and (chicken/turkey) ham was added. The mixture was then tipped into the blind baked pie shell, topped with some shredded parmesan and fresh basil leaves, and then placed inside the oven.
The final recipe of the day, by H, was an aesthetically stunning casserole of ratatouille-inspired medley of vegetables, baked to tender perfection. Starting out with a good drizzle of olive oil and some finely chopped cloves of garlic at the bottom of the ceramic casserole, tender green zucchinis, bright orange tomatoes, purplish-white onions and deep purple eggplants were sliced and laid out row by row alongside each other, resulting in a stunning show of contrasting colours. A good sprinkling of oregano and rosemary along with the essential pinch of salt and pepper, and off it went to hang out with it’s friends in the oven.
In a matter of less than an hour, our efficient and supremely warm hosts had prepared 3 traditional dishes while having shared the various different ingredients and manners in which the dishes could alternatively be prepared to result in a multitude of different versions to further tantalize the taste buds.
At the end of the session, we were treated to a light outdoor lunch, featuring all the dishes that had been prepared. Warm company, idyllic surroundings, pleasant conversation and good food. What more can a girl ask for, you say? Well, how about a store at the back of the compound that stocked the various moulds, casseroles, crockery and cutlery that were used during the session, as well as other visually stunning kitchen, linen and decoration items! Yes, after a lovely meal, some shopping to conclude the dreamy afternoon!