Posted by: travelrat | November 18, 2009

Cooking in Carcassonne

It might be asked what I was doing on a cookery weekend; my signature dish is spaghetti bolognese, and my cooking has been described as sacré bleu rather than cordon bleu.This weekend saw the launch of the French House Party’s ‘Cuisine in Brief’ weekend, and I’d been invited to report on it. But, I wasn’t going to sit around making notes, taking photographs and looking all writerly. I’d be expected to muck in.

Before I get carried away by the scenery and the décor, I’d better focus on the kitchen, where our main business went on. It’s really well equipped, having been only recently finished, with the happy knack of being practical and tasteful at the same time. The Chef, Robert Abraham, presided over it, ably assisted by sous-chef Debbie Hargreaves and her wine expert husband, Carl.

There were three cookery sessions, at which three meals were produced, each one tastier than its predecessor. Duck breasts with apples; scallops with braised parsnips and monkfish with a tartine of fried aubergines topped with mussels. And, those were just the main courses!

Delicate madeleines, crème brulée,(who’d have thought he’d use a blowtorch on it?) tapioca with coconut milk and pineapple … and to think I used not to like tapioca. One taste followed another, and there were more tastes to come, as Carl managed to find just the right wine to complement each course.

We took a hand at preparing all of these, and we noted, as the weekend passed, we were taking on more and more complicated tasks … and our French was improving, as was Chef Robert’s English.

If you are a proficient cook already, you’ll enjoy these programmes. Even if you have only a smattering of cooking skills, there’s room for you, too. And, everyone will enjoy the atmosphere.

You can find out more about French House Party at There are regular flights from UK to Carcassonne in Summer; to Toulouse all the year round. They’ll provide a free transfer to and from either of these airports. However, the fee does not cover your air fare to these places

More about this at .


  1. What a menu. I’m still laughing about the ‘sacre bleu.’ I’ve never seen a blowtorch in the kitchen for real, only on TV. Bet it does caramelise well!

  2. Of course, the blowtorch was fuelled by butane … I associate the word with those smelly, kerosene-fuelled things, which put me off a bit.

    But, that crème brulée was to kill for, and I don’t think *quite* the same effect would have been achieved if he’d just stuck it under the grill for a few seconds.

  3. That looks fun! So are you going to reproduce all these dishes at home now?

    • I wish I had the skill (and equipment!) to do that. But, I did pick up several useful tips and ideas I shall put into practice

  4. This looks like a fun course! Very intrigued by the tapioca dish – this doesn’t sound very French!

    • I have the recipe, but don’t want to post it here. If you DM me on Twitter with an email address, I’ll send it to you.

      The ‘secret’ is probably the coconut milk!

  5. Mmm those combinations sound unlikely, scallops & parsnips, aubergines & mussels? But the coconut & pineapple are a tropical marriage made in heaven.

    • I always say cooking’s about experimentation … one of the first rules of my kitchen is you never say ‘You don’t ….

      But, I agree, these sound like inlikely combinations, but the DO work.

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