Flamed Tart Swirls

Flamed Tart Swirls

I finally woke up, sometimes this week, between two storms, to the sound of silence. It was like opening my eyes after a bad hangover but the pain and the noise were absent, gone. December is a demanding and merciless mistress if you let her have her ways. It wasn’t the tantrums of “Caroline” or the caprices of “Eleanor”, never mind “Dylan” I looked at bemused – yet entertained- from my shelter. For over a month, I woke up, showered, shaved, turned on the lights, raising the curtain while others raised their glasses to “what a great year it has been” and a confused elephant in the room murmuring ” why are we doing this again?” … The pre-show cacophony before sending the overly made up clowns, controlled stage fright and a clap from the ringmaster with a slap on the shoulder for another great performance. Then it was dark again, I could still smell the burning dust from the stage lights, feeling and touching the quietude and tranquility of my room… It felt good. I took some vitamin B and D this year, to face the squalls of the cheery season and it worked like the charm of a good friendship; the reassuring words from my busy cooking years’ colleague “right behind you buddy” resonating in a synchronised tempo, or that girl from Indiana, stranger that I will (hopefully not) never meet, from shores I will (probably) never see… Your words and time have been my lighthouse, my “Ar Men”, three blinks of light in the darkness of night… As a thank you Stephanie for your kind “Amistad” and time, I want to dedicate this recipe to you.

Continue reading “Flamed Tart Swirls”

Bohemian Rhapsody

Choosing a bohemian life, I must say, didn’t come without its challenges. Like La Fontaine’s Fables, full of wit, wisdom, “I told you so” and other Jiminy Cricket malarkey, the moral of one of his stories started to sink in. Shortly after finishing the academic machine, I had decided to dedicate my recently free life to pure troubadourism, shared between traditional music one day to rock’n’roll the other. My friend, somewhat wiser, entered bravely the hard working world of restaurants kitchens to become a “Master Crepier” which is basically the black belt of pan cake making in Brittany… Seriously.
The story depicted in Mr De La Fontaine’s bestiary was the one of an Ant and a Cigale (or cicada, cricket like), that incredible insect that colours the musical landscape of Provence and Southern regions of France. The tale depicts the life of a hard working ant and a bohemian “Cigale”. One is prepared for the winter, making good provisions of the summer’s generosity, the other spent it singing and gallivanting… With a monthly income of £200 then, I had to be clever when it came to feed myself; in case you haven’t come to the punch line yet, I was the Cigale in that twisted yarn…

Selection 2

As the summer was coming to an end, I hitch hiked the 700kms to visit my friend who had found his first gig in Ardèche, the southern middle part of France. The place was picturesque, very pretty and quaint, so far away from our Atlantic shores, too far away from the sea for my liking. Also, there seemed to be more “ambiance” in the evening rather than craíc, too much Joie de vivre for little Breton me… The food was good though, really good!

Ardeche Town

After my friend had finished his last shift in the geographical anachronism that, to me, was his Cêperie, we headed to the local café to speak about entomology or rather listen to another “Talk of Shame” lecture. Whatever! The local rosé, even if reluctantly given to us despite giving proof of our age and our “professional Breton” I.D, was beautiful and your man, the owner, was right. It was a bit stronger than it seemed (damn you Gamay!). Hunger set in, in one of its sneakiest ways, the “post drinking” munchies. We climbed the huge wooden staircase of this 1920 apartment that my childhood comrade had rented for a pittance. He opened the kitchen press, I stared for a while in the fridge, like a hypnotised rabbit at the night’s traffic lights. Not only Ardèche had great rosé wines, they also produced some savage goat’s cheese and wonderful cured meats. We gathered our loot on the table and started cooking…

Lentils Chorizo Goat's Cheese

How to make a feast with just four ingredients was the secret of our frugal youth, the essence of a good hearty meal that the French have mastered, through the rainbow variety of each of its regions terroir. My friend grabbed an old pan; I chopped the onion, threw in some Puy lentils, locally produced chorizo-like dried sausage and let the lot sweat for a bit before topping it up with water…

Cooking the lentils and chorizo

Before serving, we crumbled some of the amazing Picodon’s goat’s cheese; I remember its taste to be so strong! Last Monday I recreated this feast (like I often do), with Peter Whelan’s chorizo from Slane and Breton compatriot Anna Lesveque Tiskell goat’s cheese from Co. Waterford. I was thinking about all the students making their way back to universities and colleges next month, how tricky it can sometimes be to eat on a small budget and keep cooking good wholesome food. This is a perfect example of an easy, satisfying and good value meal… Believe me; Hungry Breton knows what it’s like to be a starving bohemian “cigale” or a hard working ant. But the moral of the story I guess is, may you be living a life of leisure or being a sensible workaholic, we all have to eat sometimes!

Chorizo Lentils and Triskell