Mackerel and Mustard Sauce

A house by the Golfe – ( Original pic by Jacques Ducoin).

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!

Mancel Bay, view from my window ( Original picture by Jacques Ducoin).

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.

Port Anna – Séné ( Original photo by Jacques Ducoin)

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!

Fresh mackerel fillets

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

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

How to?

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

How to?

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…

Purée the peas

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…

Frying the mackerel on the griddle with a courgette

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?

Preps in the garden

But I guess it was worth it!

Grilled Mackerel with mustard sauce and pea purée, champ and grilled courgette
Close up

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall







Duck or Die…

Choice 2
Gun of freedom…

When I opened the big gate of adolescence, a frightening squeak from a giant cast iron secondary school entrance welcomed and absorbed me in a solemn vacuum. Of course, and like today, there were kids who just wanted to blend in, ride those teenage years under the radar with minimum collateral damage, wanting to be acknowledged and noticed, yet having the skills to keep your cards close to your chest; not showing too much, dodging rain drops and other potential scraps or punches because you looked at, or aggravated with smart words a tougher kid with social or rather deeper personal issues than yours. Some built themselves with a strong and bold shell: Punks, Goths, Skinheads and Red Skins (the left wing ones; their Doc Martens were burgundy rather than black), right down to a couple of old fashioned black leather jacket bullies with learning difficulties, easy enough to manipulate if you knew how to; keeping them sweet by sharing candies, giving a few test wagers that would up some grades, preventing them from repeating the class… Again. I was a “bullet dodger”, or at least that is what I have been called once by that big fucker – who was actually pretty smart- as he tried to pound my face into the granite wall of the refectory. I used words, and it seemed to work.

Continue reading “Duck or Die…”

A Lemon Tart for Nikki

Lemon Tart and Coffee

In 1982, we left the city for an idyllic life by the shores of the “Golfe”. Building a house was a big deal then, and I guess it always kind of is, especially the first home you are going to owe, move in as a family. The wonderful adventure lasted 8 years, all the ingredients for happiness were obvious, laid magically in front of us, vocations were born there, the start of a long life as a “Blown In”, a life of never really belonging anywhere and a talent for making new friends quite easily… Yes, a lot happened under that roof in 8 years; life changing moments? Absolutely! Life shattering? Definitely! By 1990, it was all over, my parents separated and my sister and I kindly refer to our childhood and teenage years’ abode as “The House of Hell”…

Continue reading “A Lemon Tart for Nikki”




I fell head first into the snow,
Exhausted by a three day hike.
Ingrid grabbed me by the elbow,
With her skinny hands wrapped in mittens.
She sat me in her Dad’s canoe,
An Iroquois from Quebec.
He had named it after her.
I held my head between my frozen knuckles,
Despair sank in,
As dark and murky as the mud stuck on my boots.
I guess the St Lawrence wouldn’t let go of me,
As much as I wanted to let go of it
This Godforsaken land
Let go, farewell, the end.
Ingrid whispered in my ear
That my time wasn’t up yet,
That an owl one night
Will call my name
Not until then,
Not until then…

November light in Ireland
November light in Ireland

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Spaghetti


September 1991, it was a beautiful morning over the Breton Capital. I had left behind the hills of Glenveagh National Park, my first real summer job, for another, scarier adventure: independence and freedom. So long mother and father, I am 18 now and your evil powers have no effect on me anymore… Cutting at last the proverbial umbilical cord, living the dream! I was meeting my olf friend “The Hero” in the Ozone Bar, two years older, kinda wiser too; he felt that it was his duty, as a big brother figure, to welcome and show me the ropes, places to hang out and other music venues to be part of. “You are staying with us until you get sorted, you hear?” His statement came as a relief, I hadn’t planned that far, and sure, I knew Rennes, very well even, but only as a child with the eyes of innocence. I was a man now see, free in the big city at last! I quickly finished my skinny glass of Maes Pils and followed my compadre toward the giant spaceship like building that was the Judiciary precinct; “Galion Street”, my new quarter, my new home… And how appropriately named for my new voyage!

Continue reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Spaghetti”

Roast ‘n’ Ratatouille


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?

Continue reading “Roast ‘n’ Ratatouille”