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?


Sarah said...

Looks a delightful place and what a yummy good value dinner!

Laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

This post says it all about what the French are good at, and that is using local seasonal ingredients at their best. I am not sure that we are as good here in the UK at recognising and adhering to seasonal eating yet. We still seem to be influenced by so many other countries foods outside of our own, whereas the French LOVE to eat French food!

Dan said...

£20 for that is amazingly cheap, almost ridiculously so. The lamb boulangère and the soufflé in particular look absolutely belting. What a find.

Couldn't agree more on careful sourcing and using seasonal produce, gluts making dishes cheap to produce.

I'd say it's just as easy to put together a meal like this cheaply in the UK as France, but that all depends which part of the country you live in. Based on my experience.. London? really tough. South Essex..pretty hard. South West region - surrounded by fantastic produce, easy.

Fiona Beckett said...

Well, the irony is, Laura that it's run by a British chef and his wife. Places like that are few and far between in France these days, more's the pity.

And you're absolutely right, Dan, it depends where you are. Being in the country certainly helps though I think you can put together fantastic ethnic meals in big cities where spices and other specialist products are cheaper

Dmarie said...

ooh, everything looks so yummy! thanks for sharing!

Sarah said...

That all looks truly delish! I'm sure most people could knock up a similar meal here in the UK but I'm not sure if I'd be able to buy the produce locally or grow it myself. I've always wanted to try making souffle but I worry that it'll end up a sunken mess!

Fiona Beckett said...

They're actually not that difficult, Sarah. It's basically a thick sauce with whipped egg whites folded in. I might make one for the site soon.