The French touch

Whisky Magazine's food expert Martine Nouet invites you to try a touch of Scottish fare – in Paris
By Martine Nouet
If you do not go to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you', exclaims the main character in a French historical novel.

Well, since not every Parisian can go to Scotland, I made it my goal to have Scotland come to us every year in November. The fourth Festival Whisky et Chanson is held in Autumn 2002 and is a tribute to some of Scotland's treasures: single malt, songs and Scottish fare. While singers Norma Munro and Robin Laing bring in a talented breath of charm, worldwide whisky star Jim McEwan leads the audience by the nose and takes it to the most fantastic sensory trip through hills, glens and seashore, telling hilarious stories on the way.

Proposing seven different malts in a single evening is not the easiest task, especially in a country where wine leads the way at the table. I am often told I have initiated a new approach to single malts by matching them with dishes. If so, I would call it the 'new alliance'. If the Festival Whisky et Chanson dinners are inspired by French cuisine and cooked alike, they always wink at Scotland.

French Chef Stéphane Paulet trained as a Head Chef at Parisian Gourmet chef Guy Savoy's, recently honoured with a third Michelin star. Though not a specialist whisky taster he is enthusiastic about cooking with malt whisky. We had great fun tasting the set of whiskies in order to create the menu. To start with, haggis was wrapped in filo pastry and paired with a rich and fruity Auchentoshan one evening and a surprisingly phenolic Ledaig the following night. Bruichladdich appealed for a subtle and mellow dish. Sweet potato - very fashionable at the moment in French haute cuisine - hugged the Laddie's gentle flavours, the touch of lime waking up citrus fruit aromas in the whisky. A succulent contrast with iodined Loch Fyne oysters. Dram and dish seemed to be auld acquaintances!

Balvenie Islay Cask was the perfect companion for a main dish. With the single malt's unusual combination of dessert-like flavours (honey, vanilla, orange peel) and smoky dryness, a tasty meat such as duck was the obvious option. I could not resist the temptation of Mary-Ann Mackinnon's scrumptious marmalade. Definitely peated thanks to the addition of a Kildalton malt, it made a delicious base for the sauce without fighting with the Speysider.

It is always easier to work on a sweet with whisky because key aromas such as honey, vanilla, chocolate and toasted nuts naturally match with a pudding. As for Highland Park 25-year-old, its assertive oloroso profile lead us straight to a rich chocolate cake with a praliné; sauce: back to caramelised toasted hazelnuts. What an aristocratic marriage!

When you come to cheese, the challenge is tougher. It is not easy to combine milky, lactic aromas with a spirit. The selection of Scottish cheeses being so large, I could not find one single whisky to match such a diversity of tastes. So I decided to propose two single malts, suggesting a better matching for the blue cheeses with Aberlour 1990 which has gained a lot of sweet and fresh notes from maturing in bourbon casks. The cheddars and the oatmeal caboc were quite contented with the warm malty flavours of Old Pulteney 1986.

The digestif is played soft, with a complex and subtle Glenfiddich 21-year-old and a mild milk chocolate on a honey mood. A tender note before jumping into wild country-dances. Wild is the word!

Loch Fyne oysters

Serves six

Loch Fyne oysters poached in a sweet potato velouté, whipped cream laced with Bruichladdich single malt.


  • 18 Loch Fyne oysters (90g each)

  • 2 ½ pints chicken stock (home made or made with stock cubes)

  • 500g sweet potato (one large or two medium)

  • mixed crushed peppers: cubèbe, szechwan, and long peppercorns

  • 1 clove

  • 1 pinch chilli

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 200ml double cream

  • 1 tbsp grated lime rind

  • juice of half a lime

  • 6ml whisky

  • Sprigs of chervil

1. Peel the sweet potato dice it into large chunks. Bring the stock to boil, add the diced sweet potato, mixed peppers, clove, chilli and salt. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes. Mix the soup in a blender until perfectly smooth. Leave to rest.
2. Open the oysters, throw away their first water, collect the second and add some to the velouté;. Be careful not to add too much so the preparation does not get too salty. Shell the oysters and keep them in the fridge, in their water.
3. Whip the cream, gradually adding lime juice and rind, and then whisky.
4. Bring the velouté; close to the boil, stirring constantly. Distribute the oysters into six bowls. Pour hot velouté; over. Place a quenelle of cream in the centre of the bowl with a sprig of chervil. Serve immediately.

Breast of Duck

Serves six

Breast of duck in an Islay malt marmalade and Balvenie Islay cask sauce, quinoa with dried fruit.


  • 3 duck breasts (350g each)

  • 1 tbsp of oil

  • 3 tbsp of Islay malt marmalade

  • 3 shallots

  • 30g butter

  • 1 finely diced carrot

  • 1 finely diced stick of celery

  • Juice of 2 oranges

  • 300ml tasty duck stock

  • 1 large pinch of all spices

  • 3 tbsp of Balvenie Islay Cask

  • Salt, pepper

For the garnish
400g quinoa (or pearl barley)
120g dried fruit (sultanas, apricot, crushed almonds or pistachios)
2tbsp of Balvenie Islay Cask
60g butter
Salt, pepper

1. Macerate dried fruit in two tbsps of whisky. Cook the quinoa (or pearl barley) in boiling salted water for 35 to 40 minutes. Strain, put in a large bowl, add butter, macerated dried fruit. Season with a little salt and pepper. Allow to rest.
2. Peel and chop the shallots. Melt butter in a pan, add shallot, diced carrot and diced celery. Sweat until the vegetables colour slightly, then add stock and reduce by half. Pour orange juice, add marmalade and all spices. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste. Sieve and press with the spoon to get the maximum of flavours. Allow to cool.
3. Preheat the oven (180°C - thermostat mark 6). Heat a frying pan with oil, place the breasts in the pan and gently fry for five minutes, turning once. Place the duck in a dish and cook in the oven for 15 minutes (fat side on the top). Then allow to rest in the open oven for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring the sauce to the boil, reduce by one third until you obtain a glazed syrupy sauce. Add the whisky at the end and stir.5 Warm the dried fruit quinoa and distribute on the plates. Cut the duck breast into thin slices. Place them on top of the barley and spoon sauce around.