Last Thursday, I was missing the ocean. It happens from time to time and like Baudelaire once wrote: ” Free man, you will always cherish the sea“. I was hungry for freedom I guess, and facing difficult times. The ocean always provides me with good advice, the Atlantic with some comfort and Breton biscuits a mini hug around a cup of coffee. The day after, I came back to my wee cottage in the midlands with amazing pictures and a savage need for a spot of baking…
If there is a dish that has been made by at least three generations of women in my family, it has to be Blanquette. Funny name for the proverbial duvet cover of comfort foods methinks, but I think it refers more to the colour that the dish, which in its final stage, rewards the eye with a beautiful white colour and silky texture.
It is traditionally made with veal but the availability in Ireland is next to nil. On another note, I do not care too much for it, partly for ethical and anthropomorphism reasons… Don’t ask.
I often make that dessert from scratch and with pears. The chocolate is a personal favourite addition, but can be left out. As the rhubarb season is showing its pretty face, you know that we are almost out of the woods… Bees are starting to gather pollen from Willow trees and Sand Martins, the first of the “swallows”, should be here any time now. So I felt like celebrating.
Hungry Breton parsnip soup
With coriander and Camelina oil
It was in 1998, the first time I got reacquainted with an old vegetable; to be honest, I had never heard about Parsnips until I moved to Ireland. Shame on me I know, but this wonderful root had almost disappeared from the French culinary landscape. Related to carrots and funny enough parsley (the vegetable Kingdom is full of surprises, just as much as the animal one; did you know that cranes and coots are related?), it is amazing that one of the world’s gastronomic nations had lost its touch with “Le panais”… I am dying with embarrassment here, as I haven’t even heard of its French word until then. Ireland though, never gave up. Before fancy restaurants and fancy chefs put it back on the menu, often as a roasted form, I first fell in love with parsnip when I tasted it in a soup. My Parisian colleague, who hailed from a long line of chefs and cooks, knew all about the auld root.
The problem when you make a Breton cake, is that you are left with a lot of egg whites ( well according to my previous recipe, and simple mathematics the number is 6). The other problem, is that I was sure I owed a piping bag and realised that this purchased happened a long time ago in my imaginationland superstore. Here is the quick recipe for the meringues and a toast to quick thinking!
As a child, growing up on the south coast of Brittany, I remember how rare the winters with snow were. Like the native Inuit or Yupik around and within the polar circle, we have several words referring to rain but only one describing snow. It’s a native people thing I guess. Saying that, I get overwhelmed every time a heavy wintry shower makes landfall on the midlands of the isle of Ireland; finding an uncontrollable need to get out there. Geared up with my camera and fitted with recently purchased removable spiked snow boots (yes, I owe a pair), I got out there, taking it all in; “the heavy salted peanuts knowing a cool beer is waiting for you” syndrome, exposure to the elements knowing that some comfort food is waiting for you.
Ok, this is just a short visual one. Ideal for a Sunday roast’ side order, you will need the following:
- 1 celeriac, peeled, washed and chopped
- 1 tsp of mustard (pick one with a kick, Dijon or English)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 10cl of fresh cream
- Salt and pepper
Boil the cubes of celeriac ( ideal size for blending later) with the cloves of garlic ( it will tame them down a bit). From cold, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Check after that until soft…