Festive French recipes from L’Escargot Bleu

PREPARE ahead and you can have a relaxing meal before the big day, says Fred Berkmiller of L’Escargot Bleu

Beef Cheeks Mironton. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The period just before Christmas is the perfect time for welcoming guests for a late and leisurely lunch.

Being a chef, I love cooking, but I also enjoy sitting at the table to enjoy good company and, of course, food. Be sure to plan your menu, and cook it two or three days in advance. This is similar to what we do in our restaurants (we could never cook every single thing on the day).

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The recipes I have chosen are very simple and their success is down to the quality of the ingredients so use the best you can find. Enjoy.


If there’s any pâté leftover, it can be kept in the fridge for up to ten days and the flavour will get better as time goes by. Enjoy with gherkins, pickles, toasted bread and a glass of red wine.

400g pig caul

• 400g chicken liver

• 400g good quality pork shoulder

• 150g cooked and hard pork fat

• 1 carrot

• 1 small onion

• 1 bunch parsley

• 2 cloves garlic

• 2 sprigs thyme

• Armagnac/cognac/madeira to taste

• 1 egg

• 200ml cream

• Salt and pepper

• Melted duck fat (for brushing)

Peel, wash and chop the carrot and onion into large chunks then place in a large bowl. Add the liver, pork shoulder, parsley, garlic, thyme and the alcohol, cover with cling film and marinate in the fridge overnight.

Boil the pork fat (starting with cold water) and cook for 20 mins, cool down under cold running water then dice into 5mm cubes.

Take the meat mix out of the fridge and put everything (including the vegetables but not the sprigs of thyme) through the mincer.

Add the pork fat, egg and cream and mix well. Season and taste.

Soak the pig caul in cold water for an hour then rinse well. Line the terrine or a cast iron pot with the caul, going well over the side of the pot. Add the mince and press well until nicely shaped. Fold the caul over the terrine so that the top is well covered then remove any excess caul.

Brush the terrine with melted duck fat then place in the fridge to rest for a couple of hours before cooking.

After resting, place the terrine into a 3cm to 5cm high baking tray and fill the tray with boiling water. Place in a preheated oven at 160C/Gas Mark 3 for two hours or the middle reaches 66C. Check with a probe thermometer.

Remove from the oven and rest until it reaches room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve.


Like the pâté, a nice casserole or stew always tastes better one or two days after cooking – perfect for making in advance. The cheeks (if any are leftover) can be recooked and turned into a soup or a pie the following day.

• 4 beef/ox cheeks

• 500ml beef bouillon

• 400ml beef demi glace or brown stock

• 2 carrots diced

• 2 small onions diced

• 2 cloves garlic

• 1 shallot diced

• 1 bouquet garni

• Small amount of flour (for coating the cheeks)

• Knob of butter

• Vegetable oil or duck fat

• 2 tomatoes, diced

• Salt and pepper

• Fresh chives or parsley (or both)

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Prep the vegetables. Remove excess fat from the cheeks and leave them whole. Season with coarse sea salt and roll in flour, tapping off any excess.

Heat a splash of oil or duck fat in a large cast iron or thick-bottomed pot.

When the oil is smoking hot, brown the meat evenly until golden then add the onions, shallots and carrots and sweat for 15 minutes.

Pour off excess fat and deglaze the pot by pouring in the beef bouillon and stock, then bringing it to the boil. Add in the bouquet garni, garlic, diced tomato and season again.

Cover and cook in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours until the meat is tender.

Remove the pot from the oven and leave to rest for 20 mins, then remove the meat and set to one side.

Pass the sauce through a fine sieve; pressing all the vegetables to extract the juice, then put the sauce back in a pot and reduce until of adequate thickness.

Taste and season, put your meat back in and reheat all together. Add a knob of butter and stir your sauce until melted, taste again. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and chives and serve.


In my experience, desserts are quite often forgotten if too much work will be involved. A nice crème brûlée can be made and cooked two days ahead and kept refrigerated.

• 125ml whipping cream

• 125ml double cream or crème fraîche

• 2 vanilla pods cut lengthways

• 6 egg yolks

• 65g caster sugar

• 4 tsp demerara sugar

Combine the cream in a pan and bring to the boil.

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods and add to the cream. Remove the pan from the heat and let it infuse for a few minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until thick and white.

Pour the cream into the egg mixture, whisking all the time. Put back on the heat and cook for two minutes at a very low heat, stirring with a spatula continuously to make sure it doesn’t boil. Set aside.

Put four crème brûlée dishes or ramekins into a deep ovenproof dish. Fill two thirds of the dish with hot water and place in a preheated oven at 100C/Gas Mark ½ for 45 minutes or until set (don’t overcook or they will split.)

When cooked, take them out to cool then place in the fridge until needed.

Before serving, sprinkle the brûlées with demerara sugar and caramelise using a blowtorch or under a grill.

• Fred Berkmiller opened his eatery L’Escargot Bleu (56 Broughton Street, 0131-557 1600, www.lescargotbleu.co.uk)) in 2008 and its sister restaurant, L’Escargot Blanc (17 Queensferry Street, 0131-226 1890) the following year. Both offer French cuisine with a focus on Scottish produce.