Blog - Curry Twist

Chèvre Omelettes In Chambord, Loire valley, France

The Château of Chambord is by far the biggest of the historic palaces in the Loire valley, with an elaborate facade bristling with chimneys, towers and turrets that make it look like a cluster of houses rather than a single building. Careful observation shows that each feature is unique, carefully positioned to ensure that there is no symmetry in the building.

Chambord was originally built in the sixteenth century as a hunting lodge for King François I, who made only a few brief visits to it. It is believed that part of the building was designed by Leonardo da Vinci, a guest of the king at that time in nearby Amboise.

Chambord was almost abandoned after the death of the king, and it was not until a century later that it became a royal residence again. For years it served as a hunting lodge, before passing into the possession of other members of the royal family who occupied it year around and expanded it to its current sprawling size.

The château is famous for its extensive gardens that stretch out for miles. The lawns surrounding the main building have been carefully trimmed in such exquisite patterns that they appear to have been painted on rather than grown. Chambord remained one of the largest palaces in France until Louis XIV decided to expand another of his hunting lodges, at Versailles, and convert it into a spectacular residence that nobody in Europe has ever outdone.

If you visit the Loire Valley, be sure to taste some of the famous fromage de Chèvre (goat cheese) that is a specialty of this region. From the soft, crumbly, creamy version to the aged, firmer variety and so many more in between, Chèvre is always included in the cheese course at the end of a meal and also used in many creative ways in local cuisine. We often started our day with a delicious, fluffy Chèvre omelette and if you follow my easy recipe below, you can too!

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You can play around with this recipe and add spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes or thyme. Throw in a bowl of French Onion Soup and you may as well be in France!

Chèvre Omelette With Chives

3 eggs

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 tbsp each: milk or cream, chopped fresh chives, unsalted butter, crumbled goat cheese (at room temperature)

Beat eggs with a whisk or fork until well combined and light in colour, about 2 min.

Add salt, pepper and milk or cream. Beat again to combine, 1 min. Fold in 1 tbsp of the chives.

Melt butter in large frying pan set over medium heat, swirling pan to distribute butter evenly.

Pour egg mixture into pan, tilting it to spread evenly. Once the edges have set lightly, push them in slightly and tip skillet to let uncooked portion of the egg run underneath.

Sprinkle goat cheese evenly over top. Cover skillet with a lid to melt cheese, about 1 min.

When omelette is cooked, fold it in half and slide it onto a plate. Garnish with remaining 1 tbsp chives.

Serves one-two

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French Onion Soup In Montmartre, Paris

Monmartre embodies the most romantic side of Paris. From the stark beauty of the Sacré Coeur basilica to the cobbled streets that wind through the neighbourhood and the lively bars and cafés on every corner, it is easy to see why generations of artists came here to work, carouse, and create La Vie Bohème! Picasso, Degas, van Gogh, Matisse, and many others lived here, experimented with new styles and in the process invented modern art.

It is still possible to see glimpses of the windmills and vineyards that formed part of the original village of Montmartre, but it has become too popular a place for many rustic charms to survive. So many films have been made with Montmartre as a backdrop that it is well known around the world, attracting thousands of tourists every year.

However, when you walk through one of its narrow alleys late at night after the crowds have gone home, you can still imagine what it was like a century ago. The steep, narrow, atmospheric streets and the lovely, gracious buildings lining them evoke a sense of days gone by.

In spite of the popular image of Monmartre artists and their models starving in freezing attics, reinforced by countless songs, books and movies, one can eat very well there. Cafes, bistros and bars set up impromptu seating on footpaths, street corners and squares. The sounds of laughter, conversation and the clinking of cutlery mingle with inviting aromas wafting around.

Although we ate in many a brasserie, Cafe Wepler was one of the most memorable. For over a hundred years Wepler has been the hangout of choice for artists, writers and famous personalities and it is still impressive with it's food, furnishings and art. My favourite bistro dish, and one that I invariably ordered everywhere, is French onion soup. I just love how it's warm, comforting flavours fill me up with contentment!

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You too can create that Paris bistro feeling with this easy, satisfying recipe. The secret to deep, rich flavour is in the sautéing of onions. They have to be done long and slow to develop that characteristic sweetness, colour and aroma of this soup.
For a delicious and unusual variation, try French Onion Soup with Lamb, or another Paris bistro classic - Croque Monsieur.

French Onion Soup

2 tbsp each: unsalted butter, olive oil

1 large sprig of thyme

2 large onions (such as Vidalia or Spanish), halved and thinly sliced, about 4 cups

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine

900 ml broth, chicken or beef

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp each: ground black pepper, smoked paprika

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

4 thick slices of baguette

4 slices Gruyere cheese

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Warm butter and oil in deep heavy skillet set over medium heat.

Add thyme and onions. Sauté, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is cooked off and onions are lightly browned, about 30 min.

Add sugar; continue to stir and sauté onions until they are a deeper brown, about 15 more min.

Add flour, cook 1 min.

Add wine and cook for 1 min until it bubbles, scraping up the burnt brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add broth, salt, pepper, paprika and vinegar, stirring well to incorporate.

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 1 hour until onions are very soft and soup is slightly thickened. Remove thyme sprig.

Ladle soup into 4 individual oven proof bowls. Preheat broiler in oven.

Toast baguette slices lightly and top each bowl with a slice. Lay the sliced cheese over top. Place all the bowls on a large oven safe tray.

Place tray with soup bowls about 8 inches away from broiler and broil until cheese melts and browns lightly, about 1-2 min. Sprinkle parsley over top, if using.

Serves four

 

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French Onion Soup With Lamb In Aix en Provence

The Romans who founded the town of Aix-en-Provence twenty-three centuries agomay have been the first people that we know of to fall in love with the charms of Provence, but they were certainly not the last. Artists such as van Gogh and Cezanne have immortalized the olive groves, craggy red hills, breathtaking lavender and sunflower fields, and the brilliant sunshine that make Provence top the wish-list of any traveler.

The lively, bustling city of Aix contains everything that makes Provence irresistible.  It all enchants: the famous Cours Mirabeau, bordered by plane trees that form a leafy, green arch as you stroll along the sidewalks,  the baroque fountains spraying water in the summer heat, solemn churches, fashionable shops, and bustling cafes filled with university students.

And when it comes to tasting the flavors of Provence, nobody does it better than Aix. We were enthralled by the creative use of herbs, the inspired treatment of vegetables, the lovingly simmered stews and the delicately cooked seafood that we enjoyed at every meal. Traditional dishes such as Daube, French onion soup, Pistou, Ratatouille and Bouillabaise tasted like none other after the imaginative treatment they received at the hands of local chefs.

Classic French Onion soup done with a Provencal twist was one of my favorites in Aix. A little sprinkle of Herbes de Provence makes a world of difference to its flavor!

In my recipe, I use Herbes de Provence too, but first I season the lamb broth generously with whole spices to create depth of flavor and a subtle spicy aroma that goes well with Herbes de Provence. The shredded lamb and barley add another level of flavor to the soup, setting it apart from anything else you may have had before.

French Onion Soup With Lamb And Barley   

You can serve this rich, hearty soup the traditional way with a thick slice of rustic bread and some cheese melted over top, or you can serve it with bread on the side for dipping. Making and refrigerating the lamb broth a day ahead of time simplifies the process and also makes it easier to skim off the extra fat. You can, of course, make the soup vegetarian - substitute vegetable broth instead. It's delicious!
For a more classic version try this recipe of French Onion Soup

For the lamb broth:

3 lb lamb shanks (about 3 large)

6 cups water

4 cloves garlic

10 each: whole cloves, cardamom

1 tsp whole black pepper

1 inch stick cinnamon

Salt to taste

For the soup:

2 tbsp olive oil

2 bay leaves, preferably fresh

2 large sweet onions (such as Spanish or Vidalia), halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

½ tsp each: sugar, herbes de Provence

1 carrot, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

½ cup each: white wine, white wine vinegar, pearl barley

Combine all broth ingredients together in large saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 2 hours or until lamb is very tender.  Lift lamb out of broth, cool and shred.

Strain broth and skim off fat. Reserve broth.

Warm oil in deep skillet set over medium high heat. Add bay leaves and onions. Sauté for 10 min, stirring frequently until they begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium, add sugar and herbs. Saute for another 10 mins until onions are dark brown. Add vegetables, sauté 10 min.

Add wine and vinegar to deglaze skillet. Cook 5 min until slightly reduced. Add barley, shredded lamb and reserved broth. Stir gently, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour or until vegetables are very tender and barley is cooked.

Taste for seasonings, sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley over top if desired.

Serves four