Monday, 12 September 2011
How to entertain on a budget
Before my holiday fades into the mists of time I want to tell you about a meal we had on the way home at the Auberge de Chassignolles in the Auvergne, my new favourite place in France.
Their evening meal is a no choice, 5 course prix fixe dinner which basically makes use of local ingredients they've bought from local suppliers or grown themselves. At 24 euros (£20.62) they're not making that much of a margin on it, particularly when you bear in mind that includes service*.
The meal that evening included:
A ham, fig and rocket salad (above). Slivers of country ham - probably not much more than 30g per person, I'd say - home-grown figs and rocket.
A fresh tomato and basil soup. Could have been home-grown but even if they'd bought the tomatoes they'd have been dirt cheap at that time of year (end of August). Soup is a great filler.
Lamb boulangère. Probably the most expensive part of the meal though I imagine the lamb was sourced from a local farm and the potatoes and onions of the boulangère (potato bake) would have been cheap. That was served with a green salad - more home-grown leaves.
A local cheeseboard. Cheese too is costly but again they probably bought it direct from the producer. You could help yourself, though, which was generous.
Apricot soufflé - a wildly impressive dessert but cheap as chips. Home-grown apricots, I'd guess, eggs and sugar.
It was a delicious, balanced, healthy meal which perfectly reflected the time of year and goes to show if you make use of produce which is in season - and are lucky enough to grown some of your own - you can entertain your guests royally at very modest cost. All you need to know is how to make the best of it . . .
* If you're staying there for a few days you can get a half board rate of 110€ per day, per couple for dinner, bed and breakfast
* Afterthought. Are these kinds of meals are easier to put together in France than in the UK? I think not - it's just a question of the mindset with which you approach them - but what do you reckon?