Fancy preparing some ‘old fashioned veg’ ?

It’s a cold winter’s Tuesday morning, down at 0°C at sunrise over La Turballe, looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.  9h15, it’s time to go inside where it’s warm. So I go to meet up with Thomas who welcomes me into his restaurant, Le Chaudron, to spend a morning discovering how to prepare and cook ‘old fashioned vegetables’.  
Cooking workshop at Le Chaudron La Turballe
Virginie and Thomas regularly organise culinary workshops in their organic and locavore (‘locally-sourced- produce’) restaurant.  The opportunity for the chef to share his passion and commitment to the promotion of ‘organic and environmentally-friendly-cuisine’!
Stéphane and Charlotte join us not long after.  Today’s two apprentices know this restaurant and have signed up for a workshop to get a look ‘behind the scenes’ and to “take home some tips” Charlotte confides to us.
Once the introductions are over, time for a quick coffee and off we head for the kitchen and the start of Thomas’ explanations.   A tray full of vegetables is already waiting for us :  swedes, parsnips, Daikon radishes, green and red meat radishes, yellow carrots, Spanish salsify, blue-violet potatoes, they come in all manner of colours!   Today the chef has chosen two recipes “these are dishes you can make for yourselves after at home, I’ll send you the basic recipes by email” Thomas tells us.  On today’s menu : onion, parsnip and chorizo tatin, served with caramelized swede ; and hake done in coat of scales of sliced blue-violet potatoes served with an old fashioned vegetable hotpot.  “The vegetables are from Max’s in Saint-Molf”. Thomas likes to talk about the farmers he trades with and this organic market garden farmer from ‘La ferme de la Villeneuve’ is one of his regular suppliers.   He also sources vegetables from ‘Le Verger du Littoral at Herbignac’ whose produce comes from Camoël, Avessac and the surrounding area.
  • Thomas, head chef, restaurant Le Chaudron at La Turballe
  • Peeling of vegetables at Le Chaudron in La Turballe
  • workshop cooking old fashioned vegetables at Le Chaudron La Turballe
  • workshop cooking old fashioned vegetables at Le Chaudron La Turballe
  • Cutting of the vegetables at the cooking workshop  Le Chaudron at La Turballe
  • Cutting of the vegetables at the cooking workshop  Le Chaudron at La Turballe
  • Peeling of vegetables at Le Chaudron in La Turballe
  • Charlotte at the cooking workshop at Le Chaudron in La Turballe
  • Stéphane and Charlotte at Le Chaudron in La Turballe
First we are given a few good cooking tips and hygiene practices by way of an introduction, we are given an apron each and head for the work top! « We’re going to start with the tatin » It’s an understatement to say the apprentices certainly pull their weight!   “This pastry, can it be made using oil? because I don’t eat butter” says Charlotte. No problem, the chef knows how to adapt and takes into consideration the eating habits and constraints of everyone. “In the restaurant it’s becoming more and more common to be asked for food which is gluten free, lactose free or vegetarian, we adapt to the needs and the convictions of our clients”.

Once the pastry is made, we put it in the fridge to keep cool and we attack the preparation of the vegetables!  Stéphane and Charlotte launch themselves into the peeling and chopping up of a dozen or so vegetables: swede with its very thick skin, the red onion was cut up easily using one of the ‘tricks of the trade’, the Spanish salsify using another which avoids oxidation,  Thomas is at ease with sharing his little chef’s ‘tricks of the trade’ and the participants are over the moon! “The buckets that are over here, there’s one for the compost, and one for the other stuff, you can empty the peelings into this one”.  At Le Chaudron, everything is set out with the concept of recovering and recycling as much of the waste as possible.  
  • Cooking vegetables at Le Chaudron La Turballe
  • Cooking onion, parsnip and chorizo tatin, at Le Chaudron La Turballe
The little group starts cooking the caramelized swede and then it’s time to deal with the tatin of parsnips, onions, chorizo “this particular chorizo is made with black free range pork”.  Thomas likes to add, always keen to find good quality products from a farm where the animals are treated with respect.

The slices of chorizo are placed at the bottom of the tatin tin, then covered by the parsnips and the red onion and finally the pastry we had made earlier, we pop it into the oven.  Back then we go to the vegetable preparation this time for the hot pot!
“Right, let’s taste the swedes!” The sizzling sound of the caramelized vegetables brings life to the kitchen…closely followed by the aroma... “Humm, this is delicious!  Personally, I wouldn’t add anything, not even salt, it’s very tasty” Charlotte adds discretely. 
The two trainee chefs get straight back to cutting up the vegetables to the percussion of the knives on the chopping board.  The hot pot of yellow, orange and green vegetables soon starts to take shape.  The addition of a few spices helps to boost the flavour.  “It’s important to add a splash of colour to your food in winter time” adds Thomas.  It’s true that presence of the red radish, the yellow carrots and the Daikon radish brighten up the dish no end! 
Cooking fish at Le Chaudron La Turballe
The last stage of the workshop and it’s over to Stéphane and Charlotte : the preparation of the hake with the blue-violet potatoes thinly cut with the vegetable slicer. “This is hake I picked up this morning at the fish auction sale in La Turballe.  Like every morning, I’m never quite sure what I’m going to find, it’s a question of discovering what’s available when I get there.  Bit like when I go to see Max, here again I don’t know in advance which vegetables he will have to give me”.  Thomas must always have a certain flexibility and adaptability when it comes to the produce and this is what appeals to him about his job.  “I’ve developed a menu which is relatively short but is easily adaptable.  Our clients have come to trust me because they know that we only work with fresh produce here.  If when I got to the auction there wasn’t any sea bass to be had, then I explain this to my customers later and they are always understanding about it »

Cut-up, layering of the ingredients and cooked in the frying pan, the hake-potatoe duo is ready in a jiffy!  All that is left to be done is to take the tatins out of the oven and savour the delicious aromas of the chorizo mixed with the vegetables…Tasting time is coming up very soon! 

Thomas goes off to get the necessary containers so that each one of us can take some of the various dishes home for our lunches ready to eat!  “It’s my wife who put my name down for this so she knows I’m going to come home bringing lunch with me!” jokes Stéphane. The workshop comes to an end on a convivial and relaxed note, after 2 hours of working together and sharing the experience of cooking these unusual vegetables.

Would you also like to take part in a cooking workshop at Le Chaudron?  Then check out their website and discover the list of the workshops on offer: sarrasin, route des épices, de la cueillette à l’assiette, …and take your pick!
  • Cooking workshop at Le Chaudron La Turballe
  • Cooking workshop at Le Chaudron La Turballe
  • Cooking workshop at Le Chaudron La Turballe
  • Onion, parsnip and chorizo tatin - Le Chaudron La Turballe