We left the City of Vannes for a more bucolic life by the shores of the Golfe of Morbihan, “The little sea”… Séné wasn’t quite a town, even if on Irish standards, it would definitely be one. It was not a village either, as it had a town hall, an elected Mayor with an office in his Mairie, a hotel, a few bars and a couple of restaurants. Séné was what we called a Borough, and its district was quite vast; known as a “commune”, it was made of a myriad of small villages and hamlets; Port Anna, Mousterian, Montsarrac, Cressignan, Falguérec, Brouhel… We built our house in the village of Kerarden, nearly in front of the chapel of the same name, celebrating mass every other week. A quiet life, with a beautiful view from my bedroom window!
Before the first supermarket arrived, there was one small grocery store, packed with stuff! A typical grocery shop in those days with the smell of fruits and vegetables hitting you as soon as you walked in. It had everything, you just needed to go next door for your bread, or across the road for the meat. The owner of this oasis was Mr Buckwheat ( or if translated, that is what it would be), and everyday, this man would also take is J7 Peugeot van, a miniaturised copy of his shop inside driving across the whole district, to help the forgetful or a lifeline for another. He would call into our village at the end of the afternoon, parking two doors away in an older couple’s front yard. Eggs, butter, milk, a box of matches? No problem! That is during these occasions that my mother befriended the young Nolwenn, herself mother of two young children and married to Noel, a local fisherman, poacher and “whatever comes my way” kind of guy.
They didn’t have much, nor did the people where Mr Buckwheat traded every Wednesday evening, but I guess, looking back at things now, they were probably the most honest and kind. Nolwenn would call in every so often to inform my Mum that “her Noel” got some periwinkles some day, pink shrimps another, crabs or mackerel, whatever came his way… Yes, she was fond of that girl and also knew that some people looked down on her, fearing the contagion of poverty, or in some cases, its return. Mum knew that she had had to knock on some doors once too, to sell her grandmother’s crêpes in order to make ends meet. My friend Pauric from the restaurant next door gave me some beautiful fresh mackerel last Friday, and all these memories came knocking back. We used to grill them, and it was served in a tomato or mustard sauce, I have opted for the latter with a few modern twists, I hope you’ll enjoy this fond memory!
First of all, start working on the mash potato: You’ll need:
- 6 nice organic potatoes
- 20 cl of milk
- 150 g of salted butter
- salt and pepper
- 3 scallions
Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water, after 15-20 minutes, they should be cooked through. Drain and put back in the pot over the heat for a few seconds to dry them properly. Add the milk and butter, the slices of scallions and start mashing. Set aside until you are ready to serve. It is important to do the preps properly as you want the fish to be served fresh from the pan. Now ready for the mustard sauce!
Mustard Sauce: You’ll Need
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
- 20 cl of dry white wine
- 25 cl of fresh cream
- a pinch of salt and black pepper
In a pan with olive oil, fry gently the shallots and garlic with a bit of salt; pour the white wine over before they go brown, let it reduce by half and then pour the cream. Let the lot reduce by half again, sieve into another pan and reduce until it gets thicker. Set aside. We are now going to make a pea and apple purée to give the dish a bit of freshness…
For the pea purée: You’ll Need
- two handfuls of peas ( if you don’t have fresh ones, good quality frozen ones are great).
- 1 shallot
- 1 garlic
- 1 small cooking apple peeled
- a bit of olive oil
Put the peas, shallot and garlic in a pan with olive oil for a gentle fry and after 5 minutes cover with water and let the peas cook for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Drain and cool straight away and whiz with a hand blender. Scoop the mixture into a sieve with a pan underneath, and squash it until you get a lovely thick creamy pea purée. Set aside until serving time…
So, all your preps are done, ready to be re-heated. This is the moment of truth. The quality of the fish was so good and fresh that I used a griddle pan for this. I heat it up with olive oil until quite hot, and decided to cook the fish on the skin side only, with a gentle splatter free grill cover towards the end. It won’t take long, 5 minutes at most…
Now that all is ready, you can serve the dish. It was quite blustery yesterday, so in order to take a picture of the final dish I had to bring all my preps outside between two heavy showers for the final shots… Dedication or what?
But I guess it was worth it!
Keep Well and Eat Happy