“Have you tried them?“ said the old man, plucking a the cherry from the tree. „C´est permis!“ His gesture was casual, he must have done this a thousand times before. His rutted, sun tanned face bespoke of many summers spent outside, his hands of hard work. From our garden, I had seen him busy in the vinevard all afternoon, approaching our house as he was working his way through the grapevines. At the beginning of our conversation, he seemed slightly reserved, or perhaps he´s not a man of many words, but when we told him where we came from and how much we liked our holiday home, he introduced himself as the former owner of the lovely ferme, adding not without pride he had spent most of his life there. Then, as suddenly as he had shown up, he left to continue his work, reminding us of the cherries : „N´oubliez-pas les cerises!“
That´s how we met Monsieur Jouan and received official permission to indulge. And to indulge, se régaler, that really is the easiest thing to do when you´re in the Southwest of France, in Périgord no less, land of the ducks, foie gras, walnuts and truffles. During summer, there are also the strawberries and peaches, and of course the cherry trees, three or four of which I found in the garden surrounding the beautifully renovated old farm house we called home for the length of our stay. The scenery is so idyllic, so quiet, it almost feels like being fallen out of time – well , almost, because we did enjoy all modern day comfort, including the most perfect pool and, yes, a TV set (it was the European football championship after all, and well, France kicked Germany out…). Other than that, the cottage is completely tucked away from all touristic trouble, quite literally where the streets have no name, and “Chez Jouan ” is all it takes as an address.
Speaking of Monsieur Jouan again, of course I followed his invitation to do a bit of cherry picking in the afternoon, ending up with a small crop of dark cherries, enough for a sauce to come with the quite irresistible duck breasts I had bought. A couple of peaches, however, actually destined to accompany my magrets, made a later appearance, a glorious one no less. La soupe aux pêches, chilled peach soup, turned out to be a great way to end those warm summer nights we´ve had, watching the sun set by the pool, overlooking green hills and vineyards, the kids playing football by the big old cherry tree.
I made the soup again the other night, and I intend do so whenever I `ll long for those evenings that ended watching the sun set by the pool, overlooking green hills and vineyards, and kids playing football by the cherry tree.
PS: For more information about our cottage and three other lovely holiday homes, click here (website in English, French and German) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Magrets de canard with red wine cherries & pommes salardaises (serves 2-4):
Red wine cherries sauce:
400-500 g dark cherries, pitted
3 big tbsp local honey
2 small glasses of red wine
1 sprig rosemary
a good dash of black pepper
In a saucepan, bring red wine and cherries to boil over medium heat. Stir in the honey, add the rosemary and season with black pepper. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Leave to cool.
600 g new potatoes, peeled and sliced into 2-3 mm thick rondelles
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
4-6 tbsp duck fat
You can start to cook the magrets and potatoes at the same time.
In a large thick bottomed pan, melt 2-3 tbsp duck fat over medium heat. Add potatoes, fry for 5-7 minutes, until golden, then flip potatoes, fry for a further couple of minutes, adding some more duck fat every few minutes.
When almost ready, add garlic and fry for 1 more minute, stirring to avoid garlic broom browning. Add parsley, tossing everything together. Take off the heat after 20 more seconds, season with salt and serve immediately.
magrets de canard:
2 large breasts about 350-400 g each
Using a sharp knife, incise duck skin in a cross wise pattern. In a thick bottomed pan over medium heat, fry duck breasts skin side down until all the fat is rendered, about 18 minutes. Spoon fat from the pan every once in a while (adding to the potatoes or saving it for another time).
When the skin is well browned and crisp, flip magrets over and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Leave to rest on a plate. Slice and serve with red wine cherries, potatoes and a good glass of red.
chilled peach soup
6 peaches (mine were yellow)
3 glasses white wine
1 glass sugar
juice of 1 lemon
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
a few mint leaves
Plunge peaches in boiling water and blanch for 2-3 minutes, until they´re easy to peel. Set aside – cut in halves if you prefer.
In a large pot, bring wine with sugar, lemon zest, star anise and cinnamon stick to boil. Add peaches, lower the heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add lemon juice.
Leave to cool, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours minimum. Decorate with mint leaves just before serving.