From Crawdads to Mint Pea Soup

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lower Garden District, New Orleans

When you read the stories of Jessica Bride on growing up in New Orleans, you can feel the steamy heat, picture the gnarly trees with their wide-spreading branches and imagine the mossy sidewalks in front of those grand old homes in the Big Easy where life is lived slower, the crawdads are fresh, the shrimp is plentiful and gumbo is a dinner staple. Her words weave memories into engaging tales as she recalls recipes learned from her step-mother, or the regular steak and potatoes shared with her father, or the alfresco dining with neighbors on their street. Her words draw you in but her cooking keeps you there. In fact, Jessica credits cooking with leading her to write in the first place.

Jessica and daughter in the kitchen of their New Orleans home.

A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York with a background of working in high end restaurants and a corporate career in cities around the world, Bride is no novice on the culinary scene. Whether creating southern fried catfish, a French cassoulet, oyster and artichoke stew, or a blackberry galette, she takes cooking seriously.  She knows what "changes a bowl of grass into a dinner-worthy meal" and has the dogged persistence to tweak a recipe until it's just right. When she cooks, she is fully in the moment, moving through her kitchen in a delicate dance of symmetry as she lifts a knife here, pinches a lemon there, sniffs a simmering pot or tastes a tender herb. She stores all of these moments in her memory for sharing with her readers later, after a cake is in the oven or a pie is cooling on the counter.

Baking the perfect chocolate cake for her son's birthday.

When she met her soulmate, Nick Mayor, a Londoner who fell in love, not only with Bride, but also her city, they decided to build their lives together in New Orleans. This is where her food and lifestyle blog, Belle Annee, was birthed.  Since their marriage in 2007, Jessica admits they have "quit jobs, changed careers, explored the world, renovated houses, created opportunities and taken tremendous risks." And now they have landed in London.

Notting Hill - a delightful district in West London known for its Victorian-era town homes, restaurants, and boutiques.

To read the full story of Jessica's journey, click here. For now, follow me on a photo journey through this visual feast of her culinary creations.

Crawdads, crayfish, crawfish - any way you say it, New Orleans serves it up right.

And after a crawfish boil, you make crepes with the leftovers.

This favorite Louisiana salad is packed with spinach, quinoa and fruit.

Barbecue shrimp done right - poached in butter, lemon, rosemary and Worcestershire sauce

Grilled oysters, chilled white wine and friends for dinner.

Starting the morning right with a warm cup and a fabulous book (on English Country Estates).

"It's way better to serve cheese on something that may have been collected from a building site than on your grandmother's best china." To read how to host the perfect wine and cheese party, click here.

A very British Pea and Mint Soup

Celebrating an American holiday in London involves a Pimm's bar. And lots of cake.

Snuggle time with her two oldest.

And baby makes three.

Nick and Jessica, in the spirit of Mardi Gras. 

It's a sweet life.

In June, Jessica and her family said good-bye to their lovingly renovated, historic home in New Orleans and moved to London where they will spend the next three years integrating their children into British culture, spending time with Nick's family and cultivating his career as a consultant for a London investment firm. To follow Jessica's food and lifestyle blog, Belle Annee - the Recipe for a Beautiful Year, click here.


A French Cassoulet
  1. Ingredients:
  2. 1 lb (450g) uncut bacon (go to the butcher's counter for this)
  3. 1 lb (450g) andouille
  4. 1 bag (800-900g) dried haricot, cannellini or navy beans soaked overnight
  5. 2 celery stalks
  6. 1 medium white onion, rough cut
  7. 2 large carrots, rough cut
  8. 8 garlic cloves, peeled left whole
  9. 3 plum tomatoes, cut into eighths
  10. 40g duck or goose fat
  11. 1 bouquet garni
  12. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  13. 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  14. 2 clove, lightly crushed
  15. 3 tsp lemon juice
  1. To finish:
  2. 8 confit duck legs
  3. 100 grams bread crumbs
  4. 80g duck fat
  5. 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  1. Instructions: Drain the beans that have been soaking overnight, discarding the soaking water, and tip them into a large dutch oven (or other ovenproof pot). Cut the bacon into lardons and add to the beans. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil for 15-20 minutes then drain the beans and lardons in a colander in the sink discarding the cooking water.
  2. Heat the oven to 120C / 250F.
  3. Return the dutch oven to the stove top over medium-low heat. Add the duck / goose fat and sweat the celery, onion, carrot and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bouquet garni and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, beans, and lardons and pour in 1.2 litres/2 pints water or just enough to barely cover. Bring to a boil, skim off the scum, then add the salt, pepper, clove and lemon juice.
  4. Move the pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring once, half-way through. After two hours the beans will be soft and creamy in texture and some of the water will have evaporated and the liquid will have thickened. If this is not the case then add another 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the oven. Bury the duck legs in the beans and sprinkle over the duck fat, breadcrumbs and garlic. Return it to the oven and cook for a further 2 hours.
  1. For serving: Serve in a flat bowl with each person receiving one duck leg and a large serving of the beans and vegetables. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with a rustic French red wine - preferably a Red Burgudy.
  1. Notes: This is a LARGE recipe that serves 8 hungry people and leaves plenty of beans for leftovers. You might need to split the ingredients into two dutch ovens or pots for cooking and if so just make a second bouquet garni. For 4 people, just cut everything in half - but use the full bouquet garni.

Berry Galette
Multi Berry Galette
  1. One portion of galette dough (see below)
  2. all- purpose flour, for dusting
  3. 2 - 6oz. containers blueberries
  4. 1 - 6oz. container raspberries
  5. 1 - 6oz. container blackberries
  6. 1/3 cup sugar
  7. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  8. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  9. pinch salt
  10. 1 egg, slightly beaten
  11. 1 tablespoon white or light brown sugar
Galette dough directions
  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1 teaspoon sugar
  4. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
  5. 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Dough directions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse 3 times to whisk together. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
  2. Now, with the machine running, add 1/4 cup of the ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Continue to run it for about 20 seconds or until it just starts to stick together. To test whether it is done, squeeze a small amount together between your thumb and forefinger. If it sticks together, you are fine. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Form the dough into a disc on a floured surface wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour but up to overnight.
Full galette directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F / 190C and place the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out to about 16-inches across. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Add the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries to a large glass bowl and sprinkle the 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice over them. Stir gently and thoroughly and let sit for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the berries in the middle of the chilled dough leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Then fold the sides up, creating the crust and pinch folds together to secure. Brush egg on top of the crust and sprinkle with the tablespoon of white or light brown sugar. Bake galette for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.
  5. Let cool on the counter and serve either plain or with a dollop of fresh whipped creme or vanilla ice cream.
Jessica Bride lives in London with her husband and three children where she writes at BelleAnnee as well as a handful of other publications focusing on food, travel and family.
All photos courtesy of Jessica Bride and Gabrielle Geiselman. Used with permission.

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