I’ve always enjoyed decent French cuisine and really wanted to learn a few dishes so last summer I booked a flight into Toulouse and headed to the little historical village of Gramont, right in the heart of Gascony. An absolutely gorgeous village but blink and you’d miss it.
There was no sitting back and admiring the skill of our host chefs David & Bernard that’s for sure, it was a hands-on weekend of culinary tuition getting through one recipe after the next at a startling rate!
David is originally from England and Bernard a local from Gramont who barely speaks a word of English, both trained in classical French cuisine, and together they make a smashing pair.
After a quick crash course in knife skills we started on crème caramel, gâteau pithiviers, crepes Suzette and tarte aux pommes then on to four different types of foie gras, seared duck breast, plaice with fish veloute and traditional cassoulet.
Whilst it was rather exhausting keeping up with the program I was able to snatch a few hours in between lessons to wander around the village and admire the stunning views.
The cookery course was split between two kitchens, one within the cookery schools own Table d’hote owned by David and his wife Vikki, and the other in the leading restaurant Auberge, Gramonts one and only restaurant, owned by Bernard!
I’ve done a few cooking courses over the years and I really do rate this particular school. The classes were informal yet professional, fun and informative. We cooked some pretty fine food and my favourite would have to be Bernards traditional Gascon cassoulet … dramatically calorie laden but delicious and worth a whirl if you’ve got the time and energy. I should say all ingredients can be found in local quality supermarkets.
300g dry white haricot beans – soak 12 hours
4 onions (chopped)
6 medium carrots (sliced)
6 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tsp. Peppercorns
1 tsp. Salt
1 small tin tomato puree
3 large Toulouse sausages cut into 3 pieces each
3 pork belly ribs
Pork skin to flavour – cut into strips (3) or pieces
6 pieces confit of duck
Breadcrumbs to cover top when baking
Salt & pepper to taste
Use large deep pot.
Drain beans, set aside. Brown onions and lardons together, pour 200ml of water to stop the cooking process. Add all other ingredients except the duck. Add water to cover all ingredients and bring to the boil, turn heat down and simmer for 2 hours, check and stir occasionally. Add water as necessary. Remove from heat and leave to rest for a minimum of 6 hours. Transfer to casserole dish and lay Confit of Duck on top, sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Preheat oven to 180’c / 350’f – bake for 45 minutes.
The Gascony Cookery School has been recommended as “one of the must do weekends of 2010” by the Times travel supplement January 2010 – see Cooking in Gascony