A spring visit to the Midi-Pyrenees

TRAVELLING chef Philippa Davis from Shaftesbury has been back to France again (we can’t tell you how much we envy her, but then we don’t cook as well as she does!) and this week’s postcard from Philippa was full of the delights of visiting a lovely family who live in the Midi-Pyrenees, west of Toulouse …

Getting your ducks (and goats, sheep, pigs and alpacas) all in a row

foodmenu:trav-philippaBesides the party of amorous frogs (the amphibian kind) outside my bedroom croaking their love songs all night it was a very tranquil setting. Surrounded by lush green undulating fields and a landscape spattered with huge farmhouses, you really felt you were in deep rural France.

As rural as we may have been there was of course a local boulangerie and weekly market. The nearby Monday one in Samatan was very traditional. As well as the butcher vans, vegetable stalls on which asparagus and artichokes were clearly in season, massive lumps of nougat for sale and barrels full of olives, there was also a huge shed filled with live animals for sale.

It turns out the family I was cooking for found it nigh on impossible to visit without buying some new livestock to add to their already delightfully eclectic menagerie,( of which I was strictly forbidden to incorporate into any of the week’s menus).

I was however encouraged to use one of the major specialities of this area – duck. Every other crossroad seemed to have a casual hand-painted sign for foie gras with rustic shops in the farm yard selling their home-made patés, terrines, sausages, fresh and mi-cuit foie gras lobes as well as their delicious duck meat. I was particularly keen to get hold of some Magret duck breasts, the meat from the corn fed birds that produce the foie gras.  foodmenu:trav-philippaduck

The Sunday Lunch menu went as follows:Blanched white asparagus with hollandaise; seared foie gras on brioche with stewed rhubarb and apple; Main course – pan fried Magret duck breasts, orange and fennel salad with hazelnuts and lime, white bean salad with tomato, pork sausage and parsley, whole globe artichokes with French vinaigrette; Dessert – rhubarb mille feuille.

Job done and au revoirs said, I am heading off next to cater for a fashion shoot in the UK, where I would be unashamedly happy to be paid in luxury goodies!.

Pictured are fresh artichokes in the market, and Philippa’s pan-fried Magret duck breasts. For the recipes visit her website, www.philippadavis.com