One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

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Englishman attempts French cooking

Now I am pretty sure I have mentioned before in previous posts of my undying love for French cooking. With a few days off last week I decided to attempt one of the most sacred of French dishes; Boeuf Bourguignon. Not only that but I decided to invite around my fiancés father to try it. He is infamous for not beating around the bush and telling you exactly what he thinks of something, no matter if it hurts your feelings slightly… what was I thinking?

After collecting the ingredients I researched the recipe on a number of different websites, both French and English. This instilled further fear in my mind as each seemed to follow totally different techniques, ingredients and cooking times. I  decided to take a median of all of the them and ‘vibe it’ as I went along. Hmmmm.

I started off by cutting a trimming some prime beef cuts from my local Boucherie.

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I then started on the marinade by heating some olive oil and added a large chopped onion, 3 carrots chopped into 3 inch chunks and 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic. I fried these for a few minutes, before adding 1 bottle of Burgundy wine. I chose a wine in the higher price range of my local wine shop, and tried to choose a wine which had a punchy strong flavour. In hindsight I should have consulted the wine merchant, as the flavour of the wine could have been a lot stronger.I will blame this on my poor French reading skills, when attempting to read the label descriptions!

I added to this a Bouquet Garni to infuse some more flavours. I then brought this to the boil, and simmered these for around 20 minutes, before removing from the heat and setting aside to cool.

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I placed all the beef cuts evenly in a pot and, once the marinade had cooled I poured this over the beef. I then covered with cling film and placed in the fridge to marinade away. This sat in my fridge for around 36 hours in total.

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This gave me a bit of time to burn, so with the weather fine I had a stroll down to Malmousque and Le Petite Nice, which is my closest beach at about 5 – 10 mins walk. Beautiful…

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Around mid afternoon the next day I set about finishing off the Boeuf Bourguignon, ready for my difficult dinner guest that evening. I removed the marinated meat, and fished out the meat pieces from the sauce and left them to dry on some kitchen towel. Once dry I coated them in flour and fried them in a pan with a little oil and a pack of lardons (small cut bacon pieces). The idea is to seal the meat rather than fully cook it, so that it absorbs more flavour during the slow cook to follow. I then popped these in a large pan and reunited it with the sauce and started to bring this all back to the boil. Using the frying pan I then lightly fried 6 shallots, which I then added whole. Once this had heated to almost boiling point I dropped the heat and slow cooked this for around 4 hours.

With 1 hour to serving I added 6 small button mushrooms and tasted the sauce for seasoning. Once I was satisfied with the look and taste of the sauce, and the meat had reached the point where it fell apart very easily when poked by a fork I dropped the heat and cooked some past to accompany.

The meal went down better than expected, with the only criticism being the lack of seasoning and the use of a stronger flavoured wine. Pretty good I think. I hope I have changed some people’s opinions of the English having no clue about food!

 

Next week: Coq au vin… Or maybe not!!!

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Notre Dame de la Garde

I am very lucky that the location of my flat in a mere 10 minutes walk from Notre Dame de la Garde, one of the most iconic symbols of Marseille. I took an evening stroll up there last night to witness sunset. The view is absolutely stunning, with panoramic views across the whole of Marseille.Below is a brief history on Notre Dame de la Garde, as well as a few photos I took.

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Notre Dame de la Garde is situated at the highest point in the Marseille region, atop a 532 feet limestone hill to the south-west of the Vieux Port. The site is a Roman Catholic Basilica which was built on the remains of a 16th Century old Fort, built by Francis Ist of France to resist the 1536 attack on the city by the Emperor Charles V. The modern Basilica seen today was built-in 1864, and replaced a similar structure which dates back to 1214.  The top of the Basilica features a statue of the Madonna and Child plated with gold leaf.

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Notre Dame de la Garde bears the scars of the battle of the liberation of Marseille from the Second World war. Bullet holes and marks can be seen littering the limestone walls around the structure.

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The interior of the Basilica is absolutely stunning, with incredible painted ceilings and murals on the walls depicting the history of the basilica and the port of Marseille.

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Free day

Had a free day today, so did a spot of fishing from the rocks new my apartment. No idea what the fish were called, or if they were edible so all were returned alive.

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Grey few days

My first few days were met with solid rain, resulting in flooding of the vieux port. Not a great start. Many French people blamed me for bringing my English weather with me. Still managed a quick 10 min walk up Notre Damn de la Garde between downpours…

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Emigrants

Here is my favourite British comedian Stewart Lee talking about emigrants. I have since ceased using “quality of life” as a justification for my move to people since seeing this sketch!


Leaving the UK

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leaving The UK

Since I was young I have always had a soft spot for those peculiar folk across the English channel. I adore French architecture, the sophistication of French fashion, the wealth of original musicians to emerge from France… and of course the FOOD!

After a failed music career I spent the last few years working hard in different areas of the music industry. After a chance meeting at a friends leaving party a few years back, I met my Marseilles fiancé, and the idea of emigrating one day started to stew in my mind (watch out for more food related metophors to come!). We were both fed up with working long hours for little money, and felt like we weren’t able to spend many hours of quality time together per-week. I was often stressed, tired and burnt- out in the evening after returning from my commute, and would often crash out after a quick meal.

Each day I would commute into London on a packed train, full of the same zombie faced herd, chained to routine, many taking brief solace in their morning tut and sigh-filled skim through the Daily Mail. There were people who had done this for decades, silently moaning at the weakness of their latte and the annual price hike in the cost of travel. Every Friday they would stop off at the pub for a skin full after the last long meeting of the afternoon, before sheepishly staggering on the train and stumbling back to their middle class suburban shoe box for an ear- bashing from their partner, and a drafty night on the sofa.

Do I really want this for the rest of my life?

The decision to move had also been compounded by visits to Marseille during summer holidays and Christmas jaunts. My love for the people, the customs, the sophisticated cousine has grown to the point where I longed to be out here permanently. 300 days of sunshine! 35 hour working weeks! lower retirement age! Crystal clear waters!

The decision had been made to move abroad for a new life in the Provence, and to start enjoying our lives.

So here I am on the plane on my way to meet my fiancé and see our new flat for the first time… Wish me luck!