Samhain Chestnut and Almond Cake

Chestnut and almond cake

I went a bit nuts today; I went to the woods in search of inspiration for a cake I wanted to create for a long time… I also wanted to find myself, drifting and surfing on long gone memories when we had a family, when we spent October Sundays harvesting chestnuts in the forest back home. I love that descent into darkness, I feel great again, knowing that the clock will go back to its original solar time. I feel restored, in harmony with nature. We didn’t have Halloween, but we had the great “Legends of Death”, gathered from all around Brittany by Breton writer Anatole Le Braz, Anatole “The Great” or so it translates. The first time I read the book, I was 17, and after a couple of chapters, I went to sleep, or rather to bed, I don’t think I closed my eye lids that night… “Samhain” the Celtic origins of Halloween, when the wheel turns, welcoming the darker side of the year… I am aware that a lot of people feel depressed at this time of year, I get it, I sympathise and I don’t go on too much about it. I asked a Scandinavian friend of mine once, on how they deal with six months hardly seing the sun? She just replied: “we live in each other’s houses, we are very sociable folks”. I was humbled… What a great attitude…

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Turmeric and Parmigiano Eggs

Turmeric and Parmigiano Eggs

The paradox in the job I do is that even though I am surrounded by food all day, it can get pretty busy and before you know it, you realise that you have just skipped lunch again. Therefore, it is important for me to get a good breakfast; I love breakfast, from yogurt to beans, a lot of fruits of course, nuts, honey, and even goats cheese on rye. But what is sure to see me alive over the crest of a missed midday bite, are eggs. Scrambled or fried, at least once a week. But since the egg and avocado thingy doesn’t agree with me ( my eyes go funny, or rather my vision, I am very sensitive to some of nature’s chemistry, I get high very easily ), I wanted to come up with something that would work well for me. It happened early this month, in my kitchen ( well d’ah), I was “starving with the hunger”; the ingredients were staring at me, something happened, I knew then what a sorcerer must have felt when he cast his first spell…

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Tuna Brioche Tarragon Mayo

Hungry Breton’s Tuna sandwich on brioche

After writing “The Storm”, I was reminiscing about my favourite tuna sandwich and how it came to be. I used to treat myself to a pan bagnat, originally from Provence. A bakery in the centre of Rennes used to make a beautiful one, with sweet bread, mayo and a hardboiled egg. To recreate this lovely bohemian memory, I made brioche dough, and a homemade mayonnaise with tarragon mustard. The spinach was local and the eggs were a gift from friends in Galway. And this is pretty much how it went, as far away as possible as the tuna and sweetcorn we got in that floating pub…

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The Storm

Calm before the storm

October 1992, all aboard! We were heading for Cherbourg to catch the St Killian II bound for Ireland. We checked the weather forecast on TV at lunchtime after the news, just before leaving; weather’s fine for sailing. The excitement was palpable when we all met at the Korners’ homestead, my friend Sergio waiting for us with a huge smile of trepidation as he welcomingly opened the front door.

– “That’s it isn’t it?” He just said.

– “This is it” I just replied.

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Apple and Caramel Tart

Apple and butter caramel tart…

I am not a big fan of Sundays, but I must say that I do enjoy the first part of the day, until at least 1 or 2pm. After that, I find it heavy and boring. After getting up and discussing the mysteries of the universe and other existential topics around breakfast, I always make an effort to dress nice, have a shave, even if it is my day off, and maybe use the more expensive eau de toilette for the day that’s in it; nothing. I realised that every time, I am re-enacting Sundays of the past, where imaginary family members would knock at the door and we could all have a wonderful, worriless and merry afternoon. But of course, they never come, or very rarely and despite my enjoyment at getting the dinner ready, you know, for later with “Blue eyed girl and the Seven cats”and “Doggy Woggy acting as a Dominical commis chef watching my every moves.

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