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Happy-Gourmand

Warm fuzzies of spring

Who doesn't like spring? Blossoms bring back the colour in the landscape, baby animals soften everyone's heart, longer days mean more light and more smiles . . . and there's chocolate at Easter! 

Doesn't it seem as though spring is a reward for having endured the dark dreary cold of winter? People start to stand straighter as they walk down the street, perhaps reaching for the sunshine like new sprouts in the garden. Children and animals get touched with spring fever, and they seem to bounce with uncontrollable enthusiasm. It really is a warm fuzzy time of year.

I am particularly lucky at this time of year: Not only am I a foodie enjoying the biggest food party outside Christmas, I am also a gardener enjoying a new season. To top it off, my mum's birthday happens in spring, which means celebrating the lady who encouraged me in the kitchen and the yard. So, this week is a bit of simple reminiscing, if you'll indulge me. Maybe some of my memories will inspire you to create new ones of your own.

My favourite Easters have been spent travelling, enjoying not only the company of friends but different traditions. One year I was with my goddaughter and her mum, one of my dearest friends, in South Africa.  

There was an Easter egg hunt for the children in a garden that was glorious and exotic, like something out of a fairy tale. I also found a beautiful straw hat that afternoon at a farm market we visited - my only Easter bonnet. My goddaughter, Julia, is now a doctor, but I remember that little girl in her Easter outfit as clearly as though it were yesterday. 

Another year I was in France, living in Nancy and celebrating with friends. The Easter feast is a serious undertaking in France, and we did not shirk at the task. There was delicious fish on Good Friday, and serious shopping at the markets on Saturday to prepare for Sunday. 

We started with a delectable platter of pastries and coffee on Sunday morning, followed by handmade chocolate sculptures of chickens and bunnies (with more coffee), then much chopping, stirring, simmering, and roasting for the evening meal. 

A great deal of consideration went into the wines chosen (all French, of course, but with wonderful variety). Finally we sat down to a groaning table decorated with the best linens and fresh blossoms. 

The menu? Warm olives and toasted nuts as guests arrived, then carrot velouté, guinea fowl with roast veggies, and homemade spaetzle, followed by dandelion salad with cheese, and yes, more chocolate and more coffee.

My garden is an inspiration here at Easter. I like to plant the first few seeds at Easter - a bit of arugula and Easter egg radishes are always a good bet, and if I'm lucky, the peas I plant early do well. 

The achievements this time of year are more meaningful, I think, because it's the beginning of the season. Everything tries harder in spring, and I like to cheer it on. I gave a whispered hooray! time when I saw the first bees on my flowering currant bush. My chocolate Lab, Ella, likes to gleefully chase the robins in the orchard as they weave in and out of the trees looking for worms. We have a spot where the wild cress grows that we visit at this time of year, and the cress is a special addition to spring salads, even before the dandelions come out. 

My mum has been my biggest spring inspiration, though, as she is the one who taught me to stop and smell the flowers. Not only symbolically but literally, and it has been one of my favourite reminders of her. 

My best memories with her over the years have been times when we got to do it together. We have dressed up to watch royal weddings on television, we have wandered for miles to find the perfect Chinese food, we have solved the problems of the world over a few glasses of wine. I'm happy that now my mom is the traveller, and she regales me with stories of her adventures.

Mom was also a big fan of straight-forward philosophers, like Winnie the Pooh. Some of his wise words seem to me to be a great way to leave you this week.

From Noise, by Pooh, and to be hummed happily:

For the spring is really springing;
You can see the skylark singing,
And the bluebells which are ringing,
Can be heard.

And the cuckoo isn't cooing,
But he's cucking and he's ooing,
And a Pooh is simply pooh-ing,
Like a bird.

And now, for your Easter recipe!

Partridge Normandy Style

This is the recipe we use at Easter with the guinea fowl. It's a classic French poultry dish, using wine in the sauce. The directions are translated from French, so you'll see how the French write out recipes.

2 partridge (or 1 guinea fowl)
150 ml / 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp white wine (Pinot Gris works well)
50 g / 3 Tbsp butter
250 g / 9 oz mushrooms (use brown ones if you can get them, or cremini - they add more flavour)
2 Tbsp oil
1 bouquet garni (a handful of herbs tied together: 3 sprigs EACH thyme and parsley, 1 bay leaf)
500 ml / 2 cups whipping cream
2 egg yolks
30 ml / 2 tbsp Calvados (apple brandy; brandy will work as a substitute)
1 handful of fresh chives

Directions

Heat 1 nob of butter (1 Tbsp) and the oil in a Dutch oven, and place in the birds to brown, after having seasoned the inside of them with salt and pepper.

Once the little birds have taken on some colour, douse them with the wine, season them with the bouquet garni, and let them cook gently under cover for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the mushrooms, dry them off and slice them; then wake them up for a few minutes in a hot pan with a nob of butter (1 tbsp). Season with salt and pepper.

When the birds are cooked (internal temperature needs to be 72 C /160F), cut them in half and keep them warm on a large platter (in a warming oven will work - keep them covered with foil so they don't dry out)

Incorporate the whipping cream into the sauce, season it with the Calvados and leave it uncovered a few minutes at high heat so that the sauce will reduce.

Break the eggs and put the yolks in a bowl, adding a ladle of sauce; add this to the sauce in the Dutch oven. Add the mushrooms, and a small bouquet of chopped chives, and cover the birds with this sauce. Serve accompanied by roast potatoes, and a white Bordeaux wine.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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