I’m dreaming of a white christmas…
Imagine the frosty countryside bathed in winter sunshine, a beautiful manor house hotel with festive food from the kitchens of Raymond Blanc and a Christmas scene dressed by The White Company… all served up in front of a roaring log fire. All at once. Yep – my Holiday Season excitement levels went through the roof last week!
My fellow bloggers and I hopped aboard a train at London Marylebone and were spirited away to Oxfordshire for a truly stylish white Christmas. Upon arrival we were treated to a warm welcome from hotel staff and The White Company team with coffee and pastries by the fire, before heading out to explore the gardens and orchards in the grounds of Le Manoir.
Being given a guided tour of the hotel’s kitchen gardens and hearing the passion on the subject of fresh produce and wonderful food clearly come across from all the staff was so inspiring.
We wandered through an English water garden, past rows of veg and micro herbs and into the zen calm of a Japanese tea garden. From the plentiful orchards to a mushroom valley in a ravine, I thought the entire garden-to-table set up was incredible.
Once we’d warmed up again by the fire, we were taken though to the cookery school. Head tutor and the chef who worked alongside Raymond Blanc to win the first of their two Michelin stars some thirty years ago, Mark Peregrine, was waiting with champagne and ready to impart his expert knowledge on the matter of simple but tasty festive food.
On the menu for us to taste, learn how to prepare and cook:
Pan-fried Salmon with Champagne Sauce
Chicory, Roquefort & Walnut Salad
Duck Breast with Spiced Red Wine Sauce
Whilst we drank champagne & nibbled on canapés, we watched Mark take us through the stages of each recipe before we paired up to make the pan-fried salmon dish for our own lunch. My chef-wife for the afternoon was Poppy from London lifestyle blog, Poppy Loves, who by the way, is every bit as amazing and fun as her blog.
I also got to meet another couple of lovely bloggers whom I’d been chatting with for a while via Instagram and Twitter – Kathryn from Kat Got The Cream and Sara from Notes From A Stylist. If you’re not already familiar with these fabulous ladies, go check out their blogs and Instagram accounts now!
As well as being inspired by the mouth-watering food (a couple of recipes I’ve shared below), I was also checking out the Sparkle themed table setting from The White Company.
SHOP THE SPARKLE FESTIVE TABLE
Simple and effective if you’ve not yet decided on your festive table theme…and pretty beyond belief in candle light.
If you love any of the The White Company decorations featured in this post, lots of them are still available, some at reduced prices now that we’re in December.
You can as always, shop them at the end of this post – don’t miss out!
The entire day was an inspiration and it was with tummies full of food and heads full of festive cheer, that we travelled back to London bathed in a warm glow. It was the perfect way to end November and launch head first into December!
Two easy but tasty recipes for the holiday season
Having sampled both of these and cooked one from scratch, I was really impressed with how simple they were but also, so full of flavour.
p.s. one contains cheese & the other requires that you open a bottle of champagne – do I need to say more?
Cream the Roquefort cheese in a small bowl, add the warm water and stir until smooth.
Slowly whisk in the oil and white wine vinegar*. Season with the freshly ground black pepper, taste and adjust as necessary.
Mix the Roquefort dressing with the chicory, walnut, pear, celery & 2/3 of the Roquefort. Combine and arrange on a large serving dish.
To finish, crumble the remaining Roquefort over the salad and top with the chopped chives.
*Mark recommends Forvm Chardonnay white wine vinegar. We all got to taste a little and it is incredible – not something I thought I’d ever say about vinegar but if you’re a food lover, you’ll know what I mean!
For The Sauce:
On a high heat in a small pan, boil the shallot and champagne for 30 seconds to evaporate the alcohol.
Add the cream, lemon juice & 2 pinches of salt & white pepper. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring for 1 minute until the cream has thickened a little. Add the sorrel and set aside.
Cooking The Salmon:
Your fillets should be cut across from a medium sized fish and skinned. Season them with 2 pinches of white pepper. On a medium heat in a large frying pan, melt the butter until foaming.
Add the salmon fillets and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side depending on their thickness. Remove from the heat and squeeze a little lemon juice over each fillet.
Reheat the sorrel sauce and divide between serving plates. Arrange the salmon on top and serve immediately.
This dish re-converted me to salmon all over again…although I suspect that was a lot to do with the butter and cream. And the champagne…
SHOP A WHITE CHRISTMAS
A huge thank you to The White Company and Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons for being such gracious and festive hosts and amping up my festive cheer levels to maximum!