DonQui’s Easter Tradition

Every Easter DonQui likes to cook a whole leg of lamb for family and friends.

IMG_0718

The trick is getting a lovely fresh leg of spring lamb and marinating it in a herby-garlic mixture before roasting. DonQui feels particularly blessed as his butcher can be relied on to source him an excellent leg of local organic lamb.

IMG_0735

This has become something of a tradition and he has used the same recipe for years and he posted it last Easter on this blog under the title Easter lamb and so he will not repeat it now.

IMG_0736

Suffice it to say that it turned out as good as ever.

IMG_0727

An unusual and excellent accompaniment was a very good Canadian wine from British Columbia recently brought by DonQui’s sister from the other side of the world. Osoyoos Larose, from the Okanagan valley is a rich, well balanced, dusky dry wine reminiscent of a French Bordeaux. DonQui thought it went particularly well with the lamb.

 

 

Pre-Theatre Feast

On a recent visit to London Don Qui decided to try out a restaurant he has not been to before. Looking for a place that offered an early supper so he could go to a play, he settled on Blanchette on the Regent Street side of Soho.

It was a very good choice. Offering ‘French style sharing plates’ Blanchette was perfect for a relatively light meal with lots of interesting and tasty morsels on offer.

IMG_0493

Blanchette is a relatively small establishment and at 5pm the place was already heaving, helped by the warm spring day. Several diners sat at the bar by the wide open window or outside, enjoying both the food and the far too infrequent English sun.

IMG_0491

Between him and Duchess, DonQui sampled crispy frogs legs, goat’s cheese, chicken breast in a morel sauce with asparagus and peas, crispy squid, and probably the best pommes frites he has ever tasted along with béarnaise sauce for dipping. This was all washed down with an excellent Beaujolais and finished off with a near perfect creme brûlée and a calvados.

IMG_0490

The crispy frogs legs and crispy squid were both battered and fried with herby batter being the dominant taste. It was probably a mistake to order both but when DonQui explained that this was why he had not eaten all the squid the kindly waitress offered to take it off the final bill.

IMG_0492

Service was friendly and knowledgeable and the place had a relaxed vibe. As DonQui likes to take his time over a meal he felt that the dishes perhaps came a bit too quickly in succession for his taste. If one was in a bit of a hurry to make it to the theatre on time then this would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Roast Pheasant

One of the few good things about the colder months in England is that it is game season. There are few things DonQui likes more to eat than game.

Mills bros.jpg

A trip into Southwold to the excellent Mills Brothers’ (and sisters) butchery reveals that they have some rather lovely looking locally shot hen pheasants all trussed up and ready for the over. Pausing only to decry the ridiculous new business tax hikes that threaten high street shops within giving the likes of Amazon a discount, DonQui hands over his cash and takes a pheasant home with him.

pheasant trussed.jpg

Previously DonQui has cooked his pheasants in a clay pot (Römertopf). This is because without any fat, pheasant can dry out and toughen up when roasted conventionally. Since this particular bird has been barded with bacon by the nice Mills boys, DonQui decides to try simply roasting it openly in the oven.

This is how he does it:

fry.jpg

Taking the pheasant out of the fridge an hour before to bring it up to room temperature, he browns it on all sides in a pan in which he has melted a little butter together with rapeseed oil.

Then he pops it in the oven which has been pre-heated to 180º C and lets it roast for 30 minutes, checking in at the half way point. Meanwhile he prepares the sauce which is a variation of his rich meat sauce with the addition of a few crushed juniper berries.

out of oven.jpg

Then he takes the cooked bird out of the oven and lets it rest for at least 10 minutes. Pouring off the excess oil from the roasting pan he deglazes it with red wine, scraping up the brown bits on top of the stove on a low heat and then adds this to the sauce pot.

serve.jpg

DonQui serves it with wild rice cooked in chicken stock along with green beens, peas and a little redcurrant jelly on the side. A French Burgundy or other pinot noir wine is the perfect accompaniment.

A Leisurely Lunch

As a last treat before leaving St Lucia, DonQui has a long leisurely lunch at the Dasheene Restaurant which is part of the  Ladera resort just a short trot down the road from Fond Doux where he is staying.

IMG_0194.jpg

All the locals raved about it and they were right. The setting is idyllic. The view overlooking Sugar Beach is surely unbeatable.

Few things please DonQui more than lingering over an alfresco meal in hot weather with a good bottle of rosé and excellent food.

IMG_0199.jpg

The food is great with lots of tasty fish dishes on the menu which are perfect for a hot afternoon.

IMG_0231.jpg

DonQui reckons there is always room for desert but he is glad that he chose a relatively light main course to enjoy it properly.

IMG_0237.jpg

He hopes that one day he will return again.

Relaxing at a Cocoa Plantation

After the indulgent luxury of Sugar Beach, DonQui decides something a bit more rustic, authentically Caribbean and affordable is in order.

grounds.jpg

So it is that he finds himself up in the rainforest above Sugar Beach at the wonderful Fond Doux (Sweet Valley).

cocoa shed.jpg

Fond Doux is a working organic cocoa plantation owned and run by local St Lucians. Nestled on the hillside, tucked in amongst the lush vegetation are 15 colonial style holiday cottages.

bedroom.jpg

There is no TV, no air conditioning but there is wifi. The comfortable welcoming cottages are well designed to be airy and cool even when it is hot outside.

geko.jpg

DonQui is quite happy to make friends with the resident gecko who shares the cottage. He is glad that it is a lizard not a spider keeping the insect population down as DonQui has issues with spiders.

verandah.jpg

The spacious verandah is a perfect places to sit out and let the day slip slowly by. DonQui’s even has its own plunge pool.

At night the insect noise from the forest is so intense that DonQui uses ear plugs when he tucks himself into bed beneath the mosquito net. At around 05:30 the insects take cover as the birds begin to wake up and salute the rising sun with a deafening dawn chorus.

vegetation.jpg

It is a perfect place to laze about, take the odd walk or two through the lush vegetation or lie by the pool with its soothing artificial waterfalls.

bamboo restautant.jpg

The Bamboo Restaurant on site may not offer fine dining but it is it pretty good with St Lucian staples such as goat curry, jerk chicken, roti, and locally caught king fish and mahi-mahi on the menu.

goat curry.jpg
Goat curry with rice, plantain, and a bit of jerk chicken which DonQui stole from Duchess’ plate. DonQui washed it down with a couple of chilled glasses of the local Piton beer while Duchess experimented with various coconut and chocolate cocktails.

DonQui highly recommends Fond Doux if you want a few days to chill out and relax. He also highly recommends booking a massage. It is probably not the place to go if you are looking for action-packed days or a beach holiday. There is a daily shuttle which goes to sugar beach but DonQui did not bother taking it as he much preferred to simply laze about on the plantation.

The staff are super friendly and helpful, The owners Lyton and Eroline are often around and are more than happy to chat with guests. On Thursday nights they host a cocktail party for guests, staff and local dignitaries.

coctail party.jpg
The ebullient Lyton Lamontagne holds court at his weekly cocktail party

 

Chocolate Cuisine

Avid readers of DonQui Oaty’s blog will be aware by now that he has a great fondness for chocolate.

Boucan.jpg

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when Duchess asks him where he would like to go for dinner, DonQui suggests the Boucan restaurant on Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa plantation.

menu.jpg

According to the blurb the Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant: “explores the sweet and savoury nature of cocoa, together with the superb local  produce found on Saint Lucia.”  It is all about chocolate and every dish has at least some in it — even if only a few roasted cacao nibs.

DonQui’s starter is chicken liver parfait with poached pear, chocolate and black pepper-cacao nib crumble. The chocolate adds a rich spiciness to the liver and the pear balances the flavours nicely. The dish has quite an exotic taste — too rich to sample very often but DonQui is very glad to have experienced it.

tortelini.jpg

Duchess feels much the same about her cacao pasta filled with mahi-mahi fish and goat’s cheese — looks fabulous, most interesting taste but perhaps not something one would want to eat every day. This, of course, is the whole point of a special dining experience  such as this.

dahl.jpg

Chocolate is less in evidence in the main courses. Chocolate spiced lentils with chickpeas and naan bread are a big hit with Duchess while DonQui tucks into a delicious local kingfish filet served with roast pineapple and dasheen. There is little evidence of chocolate here apart from a few nibs on top and a coconut sauce made with cocoa butter.

wine.jpgAll of this is nicely washed down by a fine Côtes de Provence rosé from a very good wine list put together by Berry Bros of London.

desert.jpg

As one might expect there are lots of chocolate delectables for desert but there are other options including one of Duchess’ favourites — Rum Baba with a good shot of the local St Lucian rum.

inside.jpg

The atmosphere is smart and laid-back at the same time. The restaurant is spacious, tastefully decorated in Hotel Chocolat’s trademark dark chocolate brown with magnificent views out over the estate. The staff are all very friendly and professional and diner was enhanced by a musician playing Bob Marley and Santana at just the right volume.

outside.jpg

DonQui is very glad he came and thought it was a most memorable experience. He highly recommends trying Hotel Chocolat at least once — an absolute must for chocoholics and adventurous diners looking for new flavour combinations.

For those not planning on going to St Lucia just yet, Hotel Chocolat also has restaurants in the UK; in London and Leeds.