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Manu Feidel's Bastille Day Celebrations

French-born celebrity chef Manu Feildel celebrates Bastille Day in Australia with an indulgent French menu.

Bastille Day is the most important date on the French calendar. July 14 celebrates the famous storming of the Bastille, a military stronghold, by restless Parisians in 1789, who feared France’s progression from a Feudal society to a constitution was being compromised. Although it was a relatively small battle, it had large repercussions and under a month later, Feudalism was abolished and a Declaration of Rights was proclaimed.

In 1790, exactly one year after the storming of the Bastille, the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the unity of the French nation. A mass was held and then Parisians partied, enjoying a huge feast with wine, fireworks and some even ran naked through the streets in a display of their freedom!

Celebrations

Today’s Bastille Day celebrations are more commemorative with the pomp and ceremony of a military parade down the Champs-Élysées, under the Arc de Triomphe and to the Place de la Concorde. For the French people, it is very much a holiday in the middle of summer, a chance to celebrate their nation, have some time with their family and of course, feast.

“It’s a little bit like New Year’s Eve in Sydney”, says French-born, Sydney based celebrity chef Manu Feildel. “There is a party atmosphere, fireworks, street parties. It is in the middle of summer holidays, so families are often on their summer breaks, so they enjoy the day together. It is a great traditional public holiday and everyone is in a party mood!”

Being in the middle of summer, Manu says there are no traditional dishes as there are at Christmas or Easter, but there would always be a special, often indulgent meal with family and friends.

“People would buy the best meats and ingredients to create a luxury feast,” says Manu. “When I had my restaurants here in Australia, we would always organise a special meal for Bastille Day and the staff and I would dress up for the guests.”

“In France, the dishes would be more summery salads and seafoods. Of course, over here it is winter, so I have created an indulgent meal fit for Bastille Day celebrations in Australia.”

Manu’s Bastille Day recipes

“Because Bastille Day here in Australia is in the middle of winter, I wanted to start the meal with a warm dish, comfort food, so I have gone with a chestnut soup,” says Manu. “In the old days, every meal would start with a pottage (soup), so this is very traditional, and fitting for the start of a Bastille Day feast.

“The next dish is a very indulgent dish of tuna rostini with foie gras and truffle. Beef rostini is a very traditional French dish, but here I wanted to add an Australian twist, so I changed it to tuna.

“The main is pan-roasted duck with celeriac puree and cherry and Pinot Noir sauce. In my mind, duck is always considered expensive, so this dish makes me think of a king eating, so it’s the perfect meat for a celebratory meal.

“For the dessert, I did bring a little French history. Apparently Louis XV named this tiny pastry ‘Madeleine’ in 1755 in honour of his father-in-law’s pastry cook, Madeleine Paulmier. Louis’ wife introduced the Madeleines soon afterwards to the court in Versaillles and they became loved all over France. They are also the perfect petit four, for coffee and chocolate, to end the meal.”

Manu Feildel's Bastille Day Celebration feast

  • Chestnut soup with parsnip and parmesan crisps
  • Tuna rostini with foie gras and truffle
  • Pan roasted duck with celeriac puree and cherry & Pinot Noir sauce
  • Madeleines with chocolate cherry sauce & candied orange praline

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Words by Paul Diamond on 4 Sep 2015
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