Dear French Market Shoppers,
My first action when I approach my cottage in the middle of the countryside in France is to head for the local artisanal baker to buy a freshly baked baguette and some pain au chocolat, these are made with batons of dark chocolate wrapped up in a croissant style pastry. I can barely wait to get outside of the bakery to sink my teeth into the golden crust with the beautiful dark bitter chocolate filling, this has to be one of my favourite food addictions.
My cottage is deep in rural France and as I drive along the tiny country road, with the old oak trees arching over me and the contented, fat brown cows gazing over the old stone walls, I experience a great sense of peace. I can feel the care with which generations of farmers have cultivated the land. It has not changed since the Roman soldiers came marching through 2 thousand years ago. Within 1 kilometre of my cottage is a large Roman baths that has recently been excavated and it is clear that the area was left untouched until the 1900s when the ruins were discovered. The surrounding forests still cover a large area and were witness to the final passage of Richard, Coeur de Leon (Lionheart of the Crusades) as he was carried mortally wounded to die in a Chateau close by to my cottage.
At night there are no street lights in my hamlet, from my garden I can clearly see the stars through crisp, clear air and hear the owls hooting in the nearby barns. A couple of nights ago I heard a fox barking as it ran alongside the hedge on the edge of my garden, it was so close I could almost believe it was inside my garden.
I love shopping for food in France as the quality and choice of vegetables and fruit is huge. Their freshness and flavour are a real treat, a good French cook would never buy old or damaged produce as this impacts on the flavour of the dish being prepared. I am always interested by the wide range of mushrooms and I enjoy trying out the different woodland mushrooms as they have a unique flavour. In Rochechouart, a mediaeval town nearby, I managed to get some Pleurottes grises, a frond shaped mushroom with a lovely woody, leafy flavour. I combined these with some cream and Herbes de Provence and served this as a sauce to accompany crumbed veal steaks and some baby potatoes from the Ile de Re. These little golden coloured potatoes have a natural herb flavour as if they have been cooked with a branch of mint. See attached recipe.
My stay was too short and as I make my way back today to Cape Town via Dartmoor, I am left with wonderful memories of amazing meals that I shared with my family and friends that I made in my cottage or ate in local restaurants; especially the large platters of cheeses and pates that we ate every day accompanied by some delicious French wines (see attached image). I am sure I have picked up lots of extra weight but its worth it!
I shall be back in the shop on Saturday and look forward to seeing you soon
“That woman behind the counter “