Ah, summer… Cycling to the beach, sword fights with giant fennel batons, building a tree house (more like a bungalow really) in the shrubs across the house or hiking through the old salt marshes of Séné, July had just started, school was truly over and all these adventures made us all very hungry. There are three dishes that colours the memory of my blessed summers: Dad’s legendary tabbouleh, homemade tomato coulis and of course, my mother’s ratatouille. Not a week without, it has to have had an impact… Tastes and smells? Of course it has! The solid anchors of a happy childhood. Did you ever wonder why they call food comfort?
I used to know that French chef; arrogant, aggravating, a “je ne sais quoi” of rudeness and a pinch of sarcasm. The whole package. No country and no town were ever good for him, so his judgemental ways forced him to be of the nomadic kind. He rang me one day with the news I have been dreading: “Hello, how are you? Guess what, I am in Ireland!”… Great. Thankfully, I never had to work with him but we did share an interest for food and we met the odd times in the local pub. It wasn’t long before he started criticising the local cuisine. He had developed a particular hatred for Coleslaw, something that was alien to most French people then, but like bacon and cabbage, we had incredibly similar things! I pointed out that “Macedoine” was one of them, a medley of cooked carrots, peas and beans, mixed with lots of mayonnaise and served rolled inside a slice of ham ( now I think about it, it was pretty gross…). The other one, much closer was “remoulade”, thinly sliced strips of raw celeriac, served as a crudity starter; it delivered quite a punch of flavours. He shrugged his shoulders in dismissal and finished his pint.
Young Buck Blue & Beef Salad
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.