Friday, 26 February 2016

A French Odyssey

Chef Luke Nguyen embarks on an incredible culinary journey and finds the Gallic food culture wholly inspiring

Written by Luke Nguyen

Comté cheese fondue (pictured above)

Serves 4

1 garlic clove, halved 
250ml Chardonnay
200g comté or Swiss gruyère cheese, cut into small cubes
1 baguette, torn into small pieces

Rub the garlic halves around the inside of the fondue pot to imbue it with flavour and to stop the cheese sticking to it.

Pour the wine into the fondue pot and warm over medium heat until simmering. Add the cubes of cheese and stir until melted.

Reduce the heat to low and transfer the fondue set to the dining table. Place pieces of baguette on fondue forks, dip into the melted cheese mixture and eat!

Chicken liver cake

Serves 6-8


300g chicken livers, cleaned
8 free-range eggs
6 garlic cloves, peeled
60g chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
10 slices bread, toasted
500ml single cream
250ml milk
butter, for greasing
35g plain flour, for dusting
fresh herbs, to garnish
crusty baguettes, to serve

Preheat the oven to 160C/ 320F. Place the chicken livers, eggs, garlic, parsley, sea salt and black pepper in a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until an even consistency is achieved.

Break the toast into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the cream, milk and the liver mixture. Stir and set aside.

Generously grease a 26cm round ring cake tin with butter, then dust with the flour. Pour the liver mixture into the cake tin. Half-fill a 26cm ovenproof saucepan with water, then fit the cake tin over the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the chicken mixture is golden brown and evenly cooked. Remove from oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Turn out of the tin, garnish with fresh herbs and serve with the baguettes.

Lychee and lemongrass bavarois

Serves 6


6 fresh lychees, peeled and halved, plus extra to serve
300g fresh raspberries
6 ready-made Brittany shortbread discs, 7cm wide 
6 ready-made chocolate discs, 8cm wide (see Note)
dark chocolate curls, to decorate (see Note)

Creme anglaise
4 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
250ml milk
1 lemongrass stem, halved
4 sheets gelatine, soaked in water for 20 minutes
500ml whipping cream

60ml mango purée (from a tin is fine)
40g liquid glucose
110g caster sugar
1 tsp pectin
1 tsp lemon juice

Ready-made chocolate discs can be purchased from chocolate speciality shops. To make chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler to shave long curls from the longest, thinnest edge of a block of chocolate.

Start by making the crème anglaise. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl until pale and creamy. In a saucepan, bring the milk and lemongrass to the boil, then pour over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Discard the lemongrass.

Now set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk vigorously for 10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and falls away from the whisk in thick ‘ribbons’. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the gelatine, then cool the mixture over a bowl of ice.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream until peaks form. When the milk mixture is completely cold and firming up, fold the whipped cream through until completely incorporated.

Pour the mixture into six round 125ml bavarois moulds that are 7cm wide. Place two lychee halves and a raspberry into each, then add more bavarois mixture to cover the fruit. Now freeze for 1-1½ hours, or until set.

Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir in 110ml water and bring to a light simmer over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened into a glaze. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

To assemble your desserts, place a shortbread disc on each serving plate. Top each shortbread disc with a chocolate disc. Carefully unmould each bavarois and place one on top of each chocolate disc. Drizzle with the mango glaze. Garnish with the chocolate curls and serve with extra lychees and the remaining raspberries.

Luke Nguyen’s France: A Gastronomic Adventure, by Luke Nguyen, is published by Hardie Grant Books, £30.

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