Sitting in a kitchen warmed by a wood-burning stove, we started our meal with foie gras on rounds of walnut bread, served with a choice of fig or onion relish. Then there was carrot salad and a platter of hams and salamis. Pudding was a traditional French yoghurt cake (recipe to come another day), and the cheese course was comprised of the neighbour's son's cheeses.
But the real highlight of that chilly evening - other than the company - was the blanquette de veau, a white veal stew designed to stick to the ribs and keep you warm for days.
800g veal (preferably with bones), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 lemon slice
150 ml dry white wine
2 leeks, sliced lengthways
250g shallots, peeled and thickly sliced
½ turnip, peeled and cubed
250g button mushrooms
150ml double cream
1 tbsp cornflour
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper to taste
1. Put the veal in a solid casserole dish with the lemon and a pinch of salt. Fill with enough cold water to cover the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to skim until the liquid is clear.
2. Add the white wine and simmer for 40 minutes.
3. Add shallots and turnips and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, add the mushrooms and leeks, then cook for 5 more minutes.
4. When the veal is tender, remove it and the vegetables. Set them all aside. Boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. This should take around 15 minutes. Turn the heat to its lowest setting, then add the cream.
5. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and cornflour together. Add 2 tbsps of the cooking liquid to the bowl, and mix until it has been incorporated with the egg yolk and cornflour.
6. Over a medium-low heat, add the contents of the bowl to the cooking liquid and stir until the sauce thickens, Do not let it boil, or the egg yolk will scramble.
7. Put the meat and vegetables back in the cooking pot and heat on a medium-low heat for a further 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.