Dear French Market Shoppers,
Today, 16th October, is World Food Day in honour of the formation this day in 1945 of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN. The theme this year is Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”.
The quality of the French cheese and other products that I have in my shop are all as a result of generations of farmers who have dedicated their energy and passion into developing the ultimate flavours with the food produced from their fruitful land. The reality of climate change can be easily measured by the impact on certain products, for instance the crop of piment d’espelette was severely reduced last year this has resulted in a market shortage. Therefore the FAO has a vital role to play in the long term sustenance of our population.
In France a “potager” (vegetable patch) is a way of life to nearly every family that lives in a rural area. It supplies the fresh vegetables and fruit to the family in summer and in harvest time bunches of onions and garlic are plaited and hung in a barn for consumption during the winter. Every member of the family is involved from digging the earth and tending the plants to making preserves with the extra produce. When I go to my little home in France I love to visit my elderly neighbours’ potager and chat to them as they tend their plants. I come away laden with fat tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and many other delights. There is a feeling of unchanging times that rolls back hundreds of years which will disappear if we do not take care of our planet.
Coming in this week I am expecting a new wine – a Riesling 2012 from Alsace made by the leading wine makers Hugel & Fils. Vines have been cultivated in Alsace for over 2000 years and the Hugel family has been making wine in Alsace since 1639 so they have had time get it right. This wine is totally dry with high natural acids. It combines great elegance, finesse and minerality. The Hugel family are based in the beautiful old town of Riquewihr which I visited a while back. My memories of it are of old narrow, cobbled streets and hanging flower baskets. We had a picnic on a grass verge with some chilled wine (the wine merchant gave us glasses) some pates, cheese and a baguette, sooo good.
It was my turn to make desert for our wonderful Gourmet lunch this weekend. I decided that as strawberries are in season I would use them as the core ingredient. In my ice cream mixer I created strawberry ice cream to which I added some Devonshire clotted cream that I had in my freezer. I sliced the ice cream into rounds and topped them with toasted almond slivers and a teaspoon of strawberry Crème de fruit (fruit liqueur). To serve with the ice cream, I covered some fresh strawberries in chocolate and made some Langues de Chat which I coloured pink. These descriptively named little biscuits are shaped like, and have the rough texture of a cat’s tongue. (I did explain this carefully to Bella in case she had the wrong impression). They are thin, crisp and light, care must be taken when cooking as they burn quickly. I served this with a glass of champagne to which I added a teaspoon of the strawberry fruit liqueur made by Massenez, a top distiller in Alsace.
We are in for a hot sunny weekend and I expect many of you will be entertaining friends outdoors so I recommend that you ask me to organise a platter of cheese or pates for you and accompany this with some delicious chilled French wine.
Have a wonderful summery weekend and I look forward to seeing you again soon,