From time to time, we all need a bit of gentle sweetness. For me, childhood food comfort comes in the form of Crêpes, savoury or not, but also apple compote my grandmother used to do by the gallons at this time of year. I brought some back from her garden last month, trees planted over 35 years ago, ideal for a breakfast treat. Here it goes.
What on Earth is or even are avaloù? Well nothing too exotic I am affraid, they are just “Apples” in Breton. But I should be careful… Apples are considered sacred in Brittany, there is even a ceremony in the west of the peninsula were an “apple tree” is paraded; Gwezenn an Anaon… “The tree of souls”. But for now, here is the recipe for my apple tart, made by my Great Grand Mother, Grand Mother and Mother… All adding a little something in the process!
September 1991 After two months spent on the side of a mountain in Glenveagh National Park, I decided to enjoy a couple of weeks off, around Donegal town before heading back to Brittany; many long walks around Lough Eske , its abandoned castle, native oaks and mountain ashes. We didn’t drive. One of my friends suggested to hitchhike to Killybegs, Fishing Harbour few miles west of the town. I like fishing harbours, for some strange reason, the smell of marine gasoil mixed with the smell of rotting fish has a certain appeal. Or is it the screaming swarms of cheeky Herring Gulls? Lorient, St-Guénolé, Galway or Howth, no matter how big or small they might be, the atmosphere surrounding them is always the same; dressed with rich colours, fumes, sadness and excitement, noise… Life, purring Diesel engines… Superstition… What’s not to like really?
I was sitting at my desk at home yesterday, trying to send a few emails, get some inspiration by playing music while staring through the sash window at the swaying Crocosmia. My attention got caught when I noticed a little blue box, containing some neatly sharpened coloured pencils my nieces and nephews enjoy drawing with. As I was bored, I stuck my nose in it, expecting a flash back memory that didn’t disappoint; back to school and my pencil case, the last week of bliss before being sent to the pillory. As a form of acceptance, the last few days of freedom were quite pleasant, mostly foraging blackberries, with our neighbours and friends. The pain of lacerated limbs was soon to be healed and forgotten by my mother’s legendary “slurpy special” , straight from the pot, soon to be devoured by a small army of stained faces; the last meal for the condemned scallywags we were. As I was trying to reconnect with these delicious berries, nature sometimes gives so generously, I imagined them as a savoury ingredient, definitely with fresh goat’s cheese, a great companion to a pork filet roast … But I had another plan this time!
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!