Another ambition of mine this year, in a quest to always be learning new things, is to cook simple tasty food from scratch, and it's got to be easy, I mean really easy. Later this year I've booked to go to the South of France where I will be watching some experts cook and also shop for ingredients on farmers markets. So in an effort to get in the swing of it before my Lush Getaway I'm going to try a few things out. It's just a question of getting in the habit really.
Maybe because I am partly French, from a Grandmother who died a month before I was born and whose family I know nothing about, I have always had a yearning for all things French, even my first boyfriend was! My French Grandmother came to England, I know not why, and was dis-owned by her family when she married my Grandad who was lower class. My mother never learnt one word of French, as Margarita had left that all behind her. I have tried to follow my ancestry but sadly cannot find out anything about my Grandmother before she came the the UK.
I visited France as a child and we toured around in our Citroen car, yes even my Dad picked up on the love of all things French, I was besotted with the place, the religious statues on the side of roads or guarding vineyards in particular.
So back to my cooking, after talking to Kim Mancha about how she is setting up this fantastic retreat in a 17th Century French Chateaux, and how they have top quality chefs demonstrating cooking, I got a craving for some simple cheese, wine bread and olives.
As it's still a bit chilly to go on a picnic I thought I would do one indoors for me and him as a weekend lunch treat. After seeing two recipes for 'baked Camembert' I decided that this would be my first endeavour as it is warming and perfect comfort food.
I found two recipes that I liked the look of, one by Jamie Oliver who suggests putting some crusty French bread in the oven as well, with a drizzle of olive oil on it, some rosemary and sea salt, then dip the crunchy bread into the gooey cheese and then into some chopped cranberries and nuts.
My other cooking guru is my friend Elinor, who is also known as The Beach-hut Cook and she has a recipe for cooking it on a camp fire with a splash of white wine, vermouth or cider on it.
Mine was cooked in the conventional oven for no longer than 15 mins, I scored the top and poked in garlic and rosemary, then drizzled with olive oil.
When I'm in France this year, Kim will be introducing all of us on the Lush Getaway Retreat, to local chefs and wine makers, as she has beeen living there now for over ten years, building up her business called The Bohemians, you can find Kim on instagram @thebohemiansfrance and facebook as Kim Bohemians.
Another part of the getaway is going to be some excursions to antique markets and shops, so between now and September, I will be planning which key pieces I really want to find over there. Fairly soon I'm going to be putting together a guide to the essential pieces in creating the French Style in your home. I'm hoping that co-organiser and interior expert Johnelle at @mignondecor will guide me.
One of our chefs on the Lush retreat is Abigail Hitchcock who can normally be found in her Greenwich village Bistro, and will be putting an American twist to some French classics.
Chef number two is local man, Christophe Dupuy who is the executive chef at the Brantome restaurant Les Jardins de Brantome. His restaurant is in the Michelin guide describing his cooking as 'tasty local fare, sourcing ingredients from small-scale farmers'.
I can't wait to go round the local market with Christophe where he will demonstrate afterwards, how to cook the ingredients freshly bought.
Now then, we can't ignore the fact that here in Brantome we will be right in the wine region, home to Bordeaux and Bergerac vintners.
Jocelyne Pecou is a winemaker who will show us round her vineyard
and give us a 'purely educational' wine tasting, purely educational you understand, so I will make sure I go so that I can report back to you guys, unless of course, you decide to come with me! This is totally possible as the September Lush Getaway is just opening its books, so please don't hesitate, click on the links above and find out how to book your room at the chateaux.
One last thing, Kim tells me that the French never skip desert. My favourite is Tart Tartin, with plump fat caramelised apples on a flaky pastry base. Serve piping hot or cold, it's great both ways.
Please have a look at https://www.lush-getaways.com and I'm sure you will be convinced to join me on this luxury week.
I'm currently exploring the culinary delights of Morocco which also has a French influence, more about that next week. Until then - bon appetite.