Michelin starred chef, Jocelyne Lotz-Choquart, cooking live on the radio with Jean-Pierre!

On friday morning, Jean-Pierre was delighted to be invited, as the guest producer, on Jocelyne Choquart’s radio show. She concocted a surprising dish: organic mussels with garden vegetables and walnut oil.

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Jocelyne Lotz-Choquart, was the proprietor and Michelin-starred chef of the famous “Mungo Park” restaurant in Besançon, from 1990 to 2006. She now has a radio show on France Bleu Besançon, where each week she puts local food in the spotlight, as she creates a recipe using a product she has chosen when visiting farmers’ markets in the region.It takes place live in the bustling, covered market in Besançon, in the presence of the said producer.

The result was spectacular: the salty, tender mussels worked perfectly with the sweet crunchiness of the vegetables. The delicate walnut flavour added a soft, almost creamy contrast to the dish. Topped off with the walnut powder (grated pressed walnuts, which remain after pressing), this added an earthy kick to the dish.I was familiar with scallops and walnut oil but had never thought of associating these ingredients. What a discovery! Perfect for the season and the imminent arrival of Christmas feasts!

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The outing also enabled us to rediscover the covered market (Marché des Beaux Arts), which has been somewhat revived by the arrival of a restaurant and bar in the centre of the building, where you can enjoy a great “plat du jour”, inspired by the fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from the surrounding stalls.

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I had no idea that organic mussels even existed, but apparently it is a very recent phenomenon, first recognised officially in 2011. The organic label is mainly based on the quality of the water, the mussels are grown on shellfish beds in special conservation areas that our free from pollutants, with regular tests being carried out.The term “bouchot”, the sort of mussels Jocelyne uses in her recipe, designates a traditional method in aquaculture, whereby the shellfish are grown on ropes, attached to wooden poles in the sea.The term also has an AOP (“appelation d’origine protégée”), meaning that to be called  “Bouchot” mussels, they must originate from La Baie de Mont St Michel, on the coast of Brittany and Normandy. Organic mussels are also produced in Scotland and Ireland.

Organic “Bouchot” Mussels With Garden Vegetables and Walnut Oil

Serves 4

1kg of “Bouchot” mussels

2 baby leeks

2 small white turnips

1 carrot

2 celery sticks

2 shallots

1 heaped dessert spoon of double cream

10cl of chardonnay

4 dessert spoonfuls of walnut oil

50g of walnut powder (or ground walnuts if you can’t get this. Do contact us if you would like to order some!)

2 dessert spoons of neutral flavoured oil(rice-bran or organic sunflower oil)

1. Rub the mussels with a knife to remove any dirt stuck to the shell.

2. Rinse them in cold water, rubbing them together. Leave to one side in a colander.

3.Wash, peel and finely chop the vegetables.

4. In a large pan, sweat the vegetables in the rice-bran oil until tender but maintaining a crunch.

5. Add the wine, cream and some ground pepper. Leave to reduce for a few minutes.

6. Add the mussels to the pan. Cover and leave to cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until they open.

7. When open, check the flesh which should be tender and not rubbery.

8. Shell the mussels by using another shell to pull out the flesh. To prevent them from continuing to cook, you will need to remove some of them with a slotted spoon and leave to one side in some foil.

9. While you are shelling, place the remaining sauce in a frying pan and cook on a low-heat for 5 more minutes.

10. Put the shelled mussels back into the sauce and heat for a minute or two.

11. Serve using a ladle. Add a generous drizzle of walnut oil and the walnut powder or ground walnuts.

12. DO NOT ADD SALT. Mussels are naturally salty. Bon appétit!

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The recently inaugurated tram in Besançon

The recently inaugurated tram in Besançon

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Cep and Walnut Soup – Soupe aux Cèpes et aux Noix

???????????????????????????????2014 has been a really good year for cep mushrooms. We collected a good few kilos throughout July, August and September. We had too many to consume fresh, so we sliced, dried and stored them in jars. This is such an easy soup to make and was a picnic staple in the thermos, throughout the walnut harvest period.

The cep mushroom(Boletus Edulus) needs wet conditions, yet during hot weather, as the ground needs to be warm. This summer was perfect. They exist in Great Britain, apparently, when the conditions are right, where they are known as a “penny bun”. The Italians call them porcini. The strong earthy flavour and melting steak-like texture makes a great soup. Although marvellous fresh, simply pan fried in butter with shallots and a sprinkle of parsley; or in an omelette; soup is a good option for dried ones, as you don’t need a large quantity to create  strong flavours and a creamy texture.

Remember that foraging for mushrooms can be dangerous as many are toxic. 50% of the Jura consists of forest, so it is second-nature to go forgaing here: parents transmit their knowledge to children, hunters learn to identify mushrooms while out in the woods. Most people,however, restrict themselves to the consumption of 3/4 types, with which they are very familiar . In France, it is common practice to take any mushrooms you are unsure of the local pharmacy, where they will identify them for you, free of charge. Certain organisations in the UK, such as The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust organise “fungi” outings, where an expert takes you on an informative foraging trip.

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Do not worry! If you don’t fancy foraging, many specialist shops sell dried ceps.You could even try this recipe with field mushrooms. 2 large ones should do the job, added directly to the shallots and pan fried in the butter.

Recipe (serves 4)

40g of dried ceps

2 medium sized potatoes

2 shallots, finely chopped

A handful of ground/crushed walnuts (or grated “pain de noix” – the leftover pressed walnuts after oil-making. This is what I use. It becomes like a flour when grated and thickens the soup. Available soon online)

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25cl of full-cream milk + a dollop of cream if you prefer a rich soup

Dry bread and grated Comté or Emmental (optional)

1. Rehydrate the mushrooms in tepid water for at least 3 hours.

2.Boil 2 medium-sized potatoes.

3..Rinse the mushrroms thoroughly in a colander.

4. Heat the mushrooms in around 50cl of water. Blanch for a few minutes. Drain but keep the flavour-filled water to use later.

5. Finely chop the shallots and soften in a large pan with a knob of butter.

6. Add the ceps and leave to cook for a few minutes in the butter

7.Chop the cooked potatoes roughly into cubes and add to the pan.

8.Add the mushroom water and the milk.

9. Blend the soup and heat for a further 5 minutes.

10.Season and add the ground walnuts, dry bread and grated cheese (and cream, if you are feeling luxurious!). Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

You can also add a chopped clove of garlic to the shallots and some thyme, but I find that the ceps are so rich that it is not necessary.

Autumn – so much produce and so little time

beautiful, lumpy, non-uniform apples!

beautiful, lumpy, non-uniform apples!

According to the Greek philosopher Epicurus: “Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little”.For me, nature’s generous offerings in Autumn are more than sufficient.The abundance of simple, natural, local produce, either grown or foraged is a large step towards Epicurus’ “pursuit of happiness”!DSCF0448

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Autumn is a key time for us, obviously, due to the walnut and hazelnut harvest, but also because there are so many delights to pick and gather. It is almost inebriating!

Jean-Pierre made around 30 litres of apple juice, many of which we gave to friends and some of which we froze in plastic bottles(open, to prevent them exploding!). Freezing means that we maintain most of the vitamins. Sterilising in glass bottles is another possibility, but you lose the vitamins.The freezer method allows us to enjoy apple juice, in all its glory, all year round.We have some great varieties here, such as  “La Belle Fille de Salins” – a strange but lovely name for an apple, literally “the beautiful girl from Salins”…but then I suppose Granny Smith and Pink Lady are a bit weird too…

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Our hazelnuts are beautiful this year, almost as if the stripes had been delicately painted on by a squirrel! However, due to the lack of sun in July and August, we harvested less than usual.

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Amazing Autumn light in the kitchen

Luckily, the little, wild DSCF0594hazelnuts in the countryside are abundant this year. They don’t need as much sun as the cultivated , large variety. We have already pressed some hazelnuts for a few customers – the public can bring their walnuts or hazelnuts to the workshop and we produce their oil. In exchange for our services, we keep a quarter of their production. Wasted walnuts and hazelnuts are no more in the region, thanks to our rejuvenation of the tradition of oil-making!

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From July until now, we foraged for many a basket of mushrooms: cèpes, girolles, chanterelles d’automne, trompettes de la mort etc..Now it is colder we will be looking out for gris de sapin, which grow under the pine trees and a few géotropes. Although there are certain mushrooms I prefer to eat fresh, we are obliged to dry a large amount, to avoid wasting them. We can then eat them all year round. You simply have to soak them for a few hours before blanching them.. Thank goodness for the dehydrator, an essential investment for keen “mushroomers”.This enables you to dry them fairly quickly before storing in jars. We have already thrown them into various dishes ie. “poulet au vin jaune” with a handful of trompettes de la mort sprinkled around the chicken towards the end of cooking. To follow, a great recipe for cèpe soup and also plum and hazelnut crumble…

L’huile de Noix Nouvelle est Arrivée!!

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Our new poster is unveiled! A tongue in cheek allusion to the ad campaigns for “Beaujolais Nouveau”!

We are delighted to be starting to press the first walnuts of 2014! It is, as usual, thanks to our cold-pressing methods, a beautiful pale golden colour; subtle, smooth and mild; yet, full of fruity, nutty flavours.It is a real pleasure to be consuming it regularly after two years of meagre harvests. Oil had consequently become rare as the stock diminished. I even  have it for breakfast sometimes on a fresh baguette!

Normally we start making oil, at the very earliest, in December after 2-3 months of drying, but this year is exceptional. Not all walnuts fall at the same time. It depends on a number of factors such as the variety of the tree – certain types flower late and fall late to avoid the threat of frost disturbing the fragile pollination process. We are mainly dealing with the common walnut tree, (Juglans Regia) –  the weather and position of the tree, affecting its exposure to the elements, are the main deciding factors, as to when a tree releases its fruits.  Our early nuts, harvested in September, fell in almost perfect conditions(sunny and dry) which encouraged the natural dehydration process.Hence the frantic shelling process which I began at the end of October! I cannot believe it has been two months since my last post. It really has been a “nuts” couple of months! We haven’t just been producing. Details to follow soon of the most colourful Autumn markets we attended, recipes for comforting dishes that helped us through the physical harvest period and the wonders of nature that have inspired us!