Classic Breton Crêpes

Classic Breton Crêpes

Autumn is trying to come back, pointing its nose through my window.  Time for the ultimate comfort food, perfect with the blackberries I gathered at the back of the house … If I have any left, as I can’t stop eating them, I might gently stew a few and pour over my Breton Pan Cakes!

Breton Crêpes

You’ll need:

  • 250 g of Organic white flour
  • 50g of melted butter
  • 1 pint of milk (500 ml) or ½ Litre
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp. of honey (or sugar)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 scraped vanilla pod (or a splash of vanilla essence)
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda

 

How to:

I guess, like Brown Bread in Ireland, everybody have their own recipes, I have several hidden in books and note books, in safes, under the mattress…  I like this one; I think it is as good as any.

In a bowl, place the flour, salt and baking soda and give it a brief whisk; it will help breaking the clumps, I don’t believe in sieving… (Us Bretons are like that, rebels and contrary to the max). In another bowl, whisk the eggs until homogenized. In a pan, gently melt the butter and the honey together. Back to the flour bowl, pour the eggs in the middle and start stirring gently; Little by little, add the butter and honey mixture, then start pouring your pint of milk. Gentle now! You should start getting a ribbon like texture, almost there… Cut a vanilla pod in half and scrape the seeds inside the mix. Give it another gentle stir and cover, in the fridge it goes for 45 min to 1 hour. It needs a rest. If you don’t have a vanilla pod or vanilla extract, pour in a bit of dark rum, my Mum used to put a dash in her Breton dessert… Very good too!

Ok, you’ll need a cloth, butter and a hot pan… Off we go! One ladle at a time, once it doesn’t stick anymore, flip the crêpe to the other side for a few seconds to a minute, in a plate, butter the pan again, and repeat the operation until you are out of Crêpe batter…

Enjoy with more honey, homemade jam, chocolate, stewed apples, etc., etc…

August 2014

Triskel Goats Cheese, Chorizo and Puy Lentils Recipe

What you’ll need:

300 g of Puy Lentils

150 g of cured chorizo

100g of fresh goats cheese

1 onion

Salt’n’Pepper

Chorizo and Lentils

How to:

Chop the onions in small pieces and fry gently in an olive oiled pan, with a tiny pinch of salt. Reserve salting towards the end as it will make the lentils bitter otherwise. Put in the lentils and the chopped chorizo and let it sweat for a bit so the flavours bind together. Top up with water and let it simmer until cooked. This should take about 20-25 minutes max.

Cooking Chorizo and lentils

The water has almost disappeared, have a taste, it should be ready! Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper and crumble some Triskel or St Tola Irish goat’s cheese or your favourite fresh goat’s cheese for that matter, mild or strong, whatever takes your fancy!

Serving Suggestion…

Chorizo, Lentils and goat's cheese serving suggestion

Bohemian Rhapsody

Choosing a bohemian life, I must say, didn’t come without its challenges. Like La Fontaine’s Fables, full of wit, wisdom, “I told you so” and other Jiminy Cricket malarkey, the moral of one of his stories started to sink in. Shortly after finishing the academic machine, I had decided to dedicate my recently free life to pure troubadourism, shared between traditional music one day to rock’n’roll the other. My friend, somewhat wiser, entered bravely the hard working world of restaurants kitchens to become a “Master Crepier” which is basically the black belt of pan cake making in Brittany… Seriously.
The story depicted in Mr De La Fontaine’s bestiary was the one of an Ant and a Cigale (or cicada, cricket like), that incredible insect that colours the musical landscape of Provence and Southern regions of France. The tale depicts the life of a hard working ant and a bohemian “Cigale”. One is prepared for the winter, making good provisions of the summer’s generosity, the other spent it singing and gallivanting… With a monthly income of £200 then, I had to be clever when it came to feed myself; in case you haven’t come to the punch line yet, I was the Cigale in that twisted yarn…

Selection 2

As the summer was coming to an end, I hitch hiked the 700kms to visit my friend who had found his first gig in Ardèche, the southern middle part of France. The place was picturesque, very pretty and quaint, so far away from our Atlantic shores, too far away from the sea for my liking. Also, there seemed to be more “ambiance” in the evening rather than craíc, too much Joie de vivre for little Breton me… The food was good though, really good!

Ardeche Town

After my friend had finished his last shift in the geographical anachronism that, to me, was his Cêperie, we headed to the local café to speak about entomology or rather listen to another “Talk of Shame” lecture. Whatever! The local rosé, even if reluctantly given to us despite giving proof of our age and our “professional Breton” I.D, was beautiful and your man, the owner, was right. It was a bit stronger than it seemed (damn you Gamay!). Hunger set in, in one of its sneakiest ways, the “post drinking” munchies. We climbed the huge wooden staircase of this 1920 apartment that my childhood comrade had rented for a pittance. He opened the kitchen press, I stared for a while in the fridge, like a hypnotised rabbit at the night’s traffic lights. Not only Ardèche had great rosé wines, they also produced some savage goat’s cheese and wonderful cured meats. We gathered our loot on the table and started cooking…

Lentils Chorizo Goat's Cheese

How to make a feast with just four ingredients was the secret of our frugal youth, the essence of a good hearty meal that the French have mastered, through the rainbow variety of each of its regions terroir. My friend grabbed an old pan; I chopped the onion, threw in some Puy lentils, locally produced chorizo-like dried sausage and let the lot sweat for a bit before topping it up with water…

Cooking the lentils and chorizo

Before serving, we crumbled some of the amazing Picodon’s goat’s cheese; I remember its taste to be so strong! Last Monday I recreated this feast (like I often do), with Peter Whelan’s chorizo from Slane and Breton compatriot Anna Lesveque Tiskell goat’s cheese from Co. Waterford. I was thinking about all the students making their way back to universities and colleges next month, how tricky it can sometimes be to eat on a small budget and keep cooking good wholesome food. This is a perfect example of an easy, satisfying and good value meal… Believe me; Hungry Breton knows what it’s like to be a starving bohemian “cigale” or a hard working ant. But the moral of the story I guess is, may you be living a life of leisure or being a sensible workaholic, we all have to eat sometimes!

Chorizo Lentils and Triskell

Young Buck and Beef Salad

Young Buck Blue & Beef Salad

Young Buck Blue
Young Buck Blue

The other morning,  I got one of my blurry “flashback in time” moments, as I too, grew up between farmlands and sea. August was a month for salads and every member of my family had their own signature dish, between Dad’s couscous tabbouleh, Mother’s simply sliced tomatoes with chives and vinaigrette or the amazing – yet groovy – tuna, sweet corn, green pepper, hard-boiled egg and rice special of Grand Ma… Summer was intense with freshness and simplicity. I too aspired to greatness to have, one day, my own designer salad… It’s a Breton thing. I came close several times, but yet remained unsatisfied, like the young buck I was. But  I seem, the other day, to have nailed it, a salad that would reflect the Irish terroir of the midlands … Here is the recipe A Chairde, and a picture to speak for itself. Beef and Young Buck Salad

First, gently pan fry to your liking a nice bit of your favourite steak and let it rest until you do the following. In a bowl, pour 3 tbsp or Irish rapessed oil, 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp of soya sauce. Thinly slice a raw carrot, grate some raw organic beetroot, raw organic broccoli florets (not too big) and some toasted sesame seeds. Crumble in some Young Buck cheese, slice your steak and mix the whole thing with your hands… Enjoy! Hungry Breton.

Hungry Breton, Armorica to Hibernia

Choice 1
Hungry Breton, playing Irish music…

This year marks a milestone anniversary for me, I left Brittany twenty years ago, the land of Crêpes and apple ciders for the mythical “Island of Winters” and black beers. Born and bred in Armorica – The Land of the Sea – I could easily have become a fisherman or a lighthouse keeper; as contradictory as it may sound, they both are a form of a calling, a thirst for peace, freedom… Or escapism. Definitely a thirst though! In more ways than one.

Continue reading “Hungry Breton, Armorica to Hibernia”