It was a privilege to be invited to participate in Une Ville qui Partage (a town that shares), an exhibition devised by Autour de Toi with sponsorship from the town’s Marie (town hall) to celebrate local enterprise in a collaborative economy. Blest with a beautifully warm, sunny day the folk of Maisons Laffitte were out in force to discover more about collaborative finance, art, charity and community services; car sharing, house exchanging and directly sourced produce such as fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy and of course, recipes2share.

Housed alongside Rouge Tomates’ vegetable baskets and the wide range of produce from La Ruche, I was ideally placed with recipes using seasonal vegetables that supported their produce. I produced 3 recipes specifically for the day: Mushroom & Walnut Paté, Fennel, Beet & Red Cabbage Slaw with Pear and a warm dish of White Wine Braised Fennel and was delighted by the interest to the samples of pate that I made for the day; an enormous success that created lots of discussion about ingredients and flavour.

An overwhelming successful day for everybody, working alongside new contacts and new friends and drawn to a close with a champagne reception at the Marie; the French really do know how to organize with style.

Mushroom & Walnut Paté

Serves 6

  • 15g dried mushrooms
  • 30g walnuts
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 300g mushrooms, chopped
  • Large pinch dried thyme
  • 1tbsp sherry or brandy
  • Sea salt & freshly milled pepper
  • 150g tub cream cheese at room temperature

Put the dried mushrooms into a measuring jug and top up to 150ml with boiling water; set aside to cool. Over a medium heat, toast the walnuts in a heavy based frying pan. Remove and keep to one side. Add the oil to the pan, turn down the heat a little then adding the shallot and garlic, gently and sweat until they are soft but not coloured. Stir in the mushrooms.

Roughly chop the now reconstituted mushrooms, adding to the pan along with their soaking liquid and continue to cook until everything is tender. Stir from time to time as the liquid evaporates, adding the thyme, sherry and seasoning, until no liquid remains. Allow to cool. Add half of the walnuts to the mushroom mixture and finely chop the remainder.

Blitz the mushroom mixture with a hand blender or liquidizer until smooth. Beat the cream cheese to loosen then add the mushrooms and remaining walnuts. Mix together, check seasoning and chill.

Fennel, Beet & Red Cabbage Slaw with Pear

Serves 8-10

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 firm pear, cored and finely diced
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1 beet
  • ½ red cabbage
  • Small bunch chervil, chopped
  • Sea salt & freshly milled pepper
  • 2-3tbsp olive oil

Soak the chopped shallot and diced pear in the lemon juice. Coarsely grate the fennel and beet; a food processor is ideal for this. Shred the cabbage, tossing together with the fennel, beet and cabbage in a large mixing bowl. Add the shallot, pear and lemon juice followed by the chervil, seasoning and olive oil then toss again, making sure that the vegetables and dressing are evenly mixed.

White Wine Braised Fennel

Serves 4

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 100g olives
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • Few sprigs of thyme
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • Sea salt & black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F

Rinse the fennel then finely slice the base to remove any protruding core; trim the stalks and its fronds, reserving a few for garnish. Cut each bulb, through the core, in half and then half again into quarters – the core will hold it all together as it cooks.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole (which also has a lid) and sauté fennel, several at a time to brown and soften. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and cover with the lid before transferring to the preheated oven for about 45 minutes until tender.