Cooking, French chateau style

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Image Interiors & Living cookery editor Lesley Tumulty shows you how to bring rustic French flair to the table.

I had the most wonderful time cooking in the kitchen of the beautiful Chateau de Rochebonne in Charante Maratime, near La Rochelle. A lovingly restored estate mansion built in 1848, it comes with all mod cons and boasts its own private pool. All this within minutes of the vibrant Atlantic coast and all that it has to offer. Needless to say, I had planned to bring my knives and pinnie so I could cook my little heart out, after shopping for the very best in seasonal produce in the local markets.
Once there, we ate all our meals outside under the shade of a large fig tree, so I couldn't pass up the obvious opportunity to pick the swollen purple fruits for lunch one day, as the recipe below shows. The pudding was a no-brainer, just like the figs. I bought some perfectly ripe nectarines, picked a few sprigs of lavender and gently poached them in some sweet wine, magical with a good dollop of chilled cr'me fraiche.

To recreate this at home, make sure to hunt out good quality ripe fruit from somewhere like Fallon & Byrne - this really is all about the ingredients.

Stuffed figs wrapped in ham

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YOU?LL NEED

6-8 ripe figs
150-200g soft goats? cheese
6-8 slices Bayonne or Parma ham
A good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

Set your oven to 200C.
Almost cut the figs in quarters, but not all the way through.
Put a good teaspoon of soft goats? cheese into each of the slightly opened figs.
Wrap each fig in a slice of ham and place snugly in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake in a hot oven for about 10-12 minutes until cheese is nice and soft and the ham is just starting to crisp up.

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Obviously, this is fab with some nice crusty bread.

Poached peaches

YOU?LL NEED

6 peaches
Half a bottle of white wine
6 tsp sugar
A sprig of lavender

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METHOD

Skin peaches by placing them in a bowl of freshly boiled water - the skins should slip off nicely. Cut in half and remove the stone.
Pour the wine into a saucepan and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Add in the sprig of lavender.
Gently place the peaches into the sweetened wine and bring to a slow simmer until the fruit is tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and boil up the wine to make a nice, syrupy sauce.
Pour over the peaches - this is lovely served with some cr'me fra?che.

@lesleytumulty

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