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Friday, 17 February 2012

Phil Lowe, A Very Hungry Englishman.

I’m thoroughly enjoying Raymond Blanc’s journey through his favourite culinary regions of France. In the BBC 2 series, The Very Hungry Frenchman, Raymond travels to five regions of France, takes over a restaurant and cooks the special dishes of that area. So far three programmes have been broadcast and in each one I would have loved to been by his side meeting all the people passionate about the food of France.

The episodes I have seen so far have Raymond and his two helpers Kush and Katy from Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons travelling to Lyon, where he meets up with his friend and award winning chef Paul Bocuse and indulges in the superb chocolate the city is famous for. They made a crumble with it and served it to their guests in a bouchon – a typical rustic Lyonnais restaurant. They also made a very light pike quenelle which was very much admired as well as poached egg Lyonnais salad. The programme also extolled the quality of the Bresse chickens which can fetch up around Forty pounds apiece. The modern Paul Bocuse market looked fantastic as did the city of Lyon itself. Somewhere I must visit some day.

Out of the three episodes that have been shown the first was in Franche Compté where we get to meet one of the biggest influences of Raymond’s life, his mother. This was the region where Raymond grew up and the region where he discovered a passion for gastronomy as his mother’s helper and where he would roam the forests, foraging for everything – wild asparagus, snails, frogs, eggs, mushrooms and berries. Oooh la la!

Then, says Raymond, “After hours of hunting and gathering, I’d run home to devour bread with butter and Maman Blanc’s jams. We kept rabbits, but they were for the table and whenever one was served my mother had tears running down her cheeks and a smile on her lips. This time around, I ate mountains of magnificent smoked Morteau sausage – and had that gastronomic marriage made in heaven: slices of nutty Comté cheese and a glass of sherry-like vin jaune.  I hope you British gourmets will be inspired to create these superb French dishes at home. I am proud to have been part of the Great British food revolution, but I’ll always find time to raise a glass and toast, Vive La France.” Source: Daily Mail website.

The second episode was in Burgundy where Raymond and his helpers cooked the famous Beef Bourguignon from beef from the long lived and stress free Charolais cows and inspired me to give it a go last Saturday, albeit with meat from a Vache Anglaise. He also ate Michelin star snails and visited a vineyard world famous for its Chardonnay grapes and learnt the technique for taking the grapes from the vines without damage. The best wines, grand cru, are made from the vines at the topmost part of the vineyard and of course, the terroir along with the sunshine are the most important ingredients to creating superb wines.

Next week the programme comes from Alsace, a region of hearty mountainous dishes and close Germanic flavours along with French and I can’t wait for the final episode in Provence. Again I quote the Daily Mail website.
“Heading south, Provence provided Mediterranean sunshine and I was instantly reminded of my first visit, when I was 12 and went to see a friend who had moved there. It was like going to another country: the smell of fennel and lavender, the lazy sound of crickets, the constant blue sky – and the bustling market stalls laid out with lobster, octopus and squid. When I returned this time I enjoyed Provençal specialities including brandade (a purée of salt cod) and the best bouillabaisse I’ve ever tasted – a glorious fish stew combines the flavours of the sea with the tastes of the land (tomatoes, olive oil, saffron, star anise, pastis or brandy). “ 

Sounds great non? Could this series rival my favourite French cooking series, French Odyssey by Rick Stein?


Gailsman said...

Sounds like you're enjoying the series very much. No doubt you'll be buying the DVD when it comes out

Karen said...

Somehow I have managed to miss this - I must see if iPlayer has some episodes left. Just reading your blog has made me feel hungry for some of the French delights. And I'm going to attempt Beef Bourguignon today, well, I will marinade it today & cook it tomorrow.

Jean said...

I agree, Phil, the series is absolutley wonderful, full of great food and lovely scenery and Raymond comes across as very charming with a great sense of humour. It makes me want to get on the first available ferry to France !!

MorningAJ said...

I watched the first episode but it only managed to convince me that I prefer Italian food. (Real Italian food - not Pizza Express!)

Come back Two Greedy Italians!