Amélie is a visually scrumptious film. Produced in 2001, it used the state of art digital technology to create a dream-like saturated image of Paris to represent the romantic, quirky and unique vision of the film’s protagonist – Amelie Poulain. While the film is not a food film as such, unlike Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s earlier work ‘Delicatessen’, food appears and/or is referenced in its numerous scenes. From the now-iconic images of little Amelie wearing fruit-jewellery, the cherry earnings and the delightful raspberry fingertips, to numerous comical incidents at the green grocer’s and the touching finale where Amelie imagines her love interest, Nino, getting the ingredients for ‘Miss Amelie’s famous plum cake’. Having watched this film an endless number of times, I can (geekishly) recall all of the food references and scenes pretty much in their chronological order. So when it came to creating an Amelie-inspired dinner party, I was not stuck for ideas, the menu simply wrote itself into my note book.
A raspberry gin and tonic with a board of French charcuterie, cornichons and torn baguettes
‘Il dort dans les choux-fleurs’
A warm salad of roasted cauliflower with capers, jalapeños and parsley
M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken
Meme un artichaut a du coeur: braised artichokes, fennel and new potatoes
M-elle Amelie’s famous plum cake
The visual richness of the film also inspired the style of the table-setting: a rustic French theme with a few quirky injections of the filmic references and a touch of bright colours.
Instead of using a tablecloth, I chose a warm-coloured table surface, red in my case, and laid the table with a beige linen runner and a matching set of napkins. A selection of jumbo candles together with some jars&bottles containing flowers acted as a centre piece. For this occasion I chose simple, wild flowers and herbs: rosemary proved a gorgeous ingredient both in the meal and in the floral arrangement. Chive flowers have the most gorgeous colour and also make a perfect link between the decor and the meal itself. As a place setting, I would create individual bouquets, containing lavender, rosemary and any other rustic greens that you find appealing. A simple luggage tag attached to the bouquet will help your guest find their way and make them feel quite special. To add a bit of quirk, reflecting Amelie’s character, I took inspiration from the paintings that feature so prominently in the film – Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’ and the most adorable ‘Dog’ and ‘Goose’ paintings in Amelie’s bedroom who talk to each other once their owner falls asleep. I have printed several copies of these paintings (A5 size), framed them into small photo frames, and dotted them around the table at different angles, so that each guest has a good view of at least one of them. To make the dinner even more interactive and playful you can take inspiration from the photo booth theme of the film, using props like the hat and mask of Zoro, to add a little fancy dress element to the night and give an outlet to your guests’ creativity which will certainly be flowing after a few glasses of vino.
M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken
250 gr mascarpone
1 lemon – juice and zest
1 lemon cut into slices
bulb of garlic
a bouquet garnis (rosemary, thyme, bay leaf)
Pre-heat the oven to 200C
In a bowl mix mascarpone with salt, pepper and lemon zest and 1/2 lemon juice
Find your way to get under the chicken’s skin (almost Sinatra style) and gently push the mascarpone mixture, distributing it evenly throughout. Try to keep the skin as intact as possible to ensure the mixture stays inside during cooking.
In a baking tray make a bed of olive oil, lemon slices, crushed garlic gloves (skins on) and springs of herbs and stuff the chicken with a mix of similar ingredients ( a few lemon wedges, a bouquet garni and some garlic)
Sprinkle the chicken with some sea salt and crack some pepper on it too and send it off to the oven for 40 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and super crispy. Make sure no blood seeps out when you poke the chicken with a knife.
Serve the chicken in the cooking tray (the ‘bedding’ will cook into the most beautiful abstract background) and make sure to pair it with the side dish of braised artichokes,fennel and new taters.
‘Meme un artichaut a du coeur’: braised artichokes with fennel and new potatoes
2 medium fennels
12 small new potatoes
1 white onion
1 lemon (1/2 juiced, 1/2 thinly sliced)
a large bunch of dill
200 gr butter
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Cut each potato in half lengthwise
Thinly slice the fennels and onion lengthwise
Peel the artichoke and slice the hearts lengthwise
Heat the butter in a large deep frying pan and place the potatoes in a layer. Sprinkle with salt and fry for 5 minutes till both sides begin to crips up
Top the potatoes with layers of fennel, onion and artichoke hearts, add more salt, lemon juice, a bit of water, cover with lid and cook on medium heat for 40 minutes until all ingredients are cooked through. Keep adding water and butter in small amounts to prevent burning.
Top with lemon slices and sprinkle with dill and olive oil. Cook further for 5 minutes.
This dish works well on its own or makes the perfect accompaniment to M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken