Savouring French Flavours and Customs

Mid-November finds us in St Vaast.  We had set aside the best part of two weeks to catch up with building work (some hope :() and our French friends.  Nick spends much of the time in the garden, and makes a few fishing trips as the squid are about.   He also catches whiting and Francois gives us two dozen fresh herrings (given to him by a patient).  We eat them fresh for a couple of days, enjoying the roes as a separate delicacy, and then hot-smoke others.  We often get rather good food items passed to us by our French GP – I rather think that customs of yore still prevail in rural France.  In the matter of my ‘flu jab I find it refreshingly amusing that I can buy the vaccine over the counter in the pharmacy, and instead of making an appointment to have it administered in my doctor’s ‘Cabinet’, I am required to fetch some alcohol (in the absence of Calvados, Bombay Sapphire will do), to roll up my sleeve, to be swabbed with gin, to receive the injection in the privacy of my own kitchen.  Then Francois goes fishing with Nick.

I pass the time indoors, sitting at the computer screen, trawling my numerous folders of pictures in order to start compiling a Powerpoint presentation for the December meeting of the Conchological Society.   Entitled ‘Blogging a Way along the Normandy Coast’ the idea is to draw on some of my blog posts and talk about the various beaches and shores which have provided pleasure and provender since we bought our house here.

I do find time to cook in the kitchen which has also been our living room and study this past year.   I make some seaweed rolls and winkle butter.  The former were inspired by some bread rolls we were served at Hotel Fuchsias along the road, and the butter is a recipe I found in a book by Jacqui Wood called ‘Prehistoric Cooking’.  That recipe will soon be found on the revamped Conchological Society’s website, which goes live on January 1st.

Then we do a curry evening chez Poulet.  I cook it all and we cart it over the road.  The lamb curry is extremely well received (thanks to a great recipe from Waitrose) and they love the red lentil dall.  It will be good when we can entertain in our home again.

We are still cropping a few raspberries and figs.  One day Nick lugs a large pot of lemons up to the house.  There must be about 50 from the small tree in the walled garden and we have left some for our neighbours.  We have now found a way to get the best out of our lemons.  When first picked the skins are thick, the layer of pith dominates and the flesh is dry.  Kept indoors for 2-3 weeks the skin becomes more pliable, the pith dries out a bit and thins, the flesh becomes juicy and we have very usable lemons.

The night before we return to Dorset we eat supper at Le Debarcadere with Jean-Pierre and Tanou, then we cross the Channel with a car loaded to the gunnels, much of the space being taken by the small scaffolding structure we will assemble in order to hang Victoria Doran’s pictures in the hall at TOW.

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4 thoughts on “Savouring French Flavours and Customs

  1. Marian asks “I’ve only had time for a quick catch up on your blog, I will have to read the rest later but I had to comment on winkle butter? I am quite adventurous with my food but not sure about winkle butter!!! How was it?”

  2. And my answer is “It is a nice savoury spread. It does not taste remotely fishy. We ate it with the seaweed rolls, and a fish pie. The fun is in the gathering and the preparation of the little marine snails – a food for free if you discount the butter!”

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