When I visited Le Touquet this past April, we ate at a lovely restaurant called À Table. It was our second visit to the restaurant. The first time was two years ago, also during the month of April. We had such a positive experience that first time, that we decided to book a table for lunch on our last day there. Luckily, it did not disappoint, as did a few other restaurants we returned to (here’s a hint: stay away from Le Matisse and Le Restaurant du Marché).
Though À Table is small (my chair was literally touching that of the person behind me), it serves gorgeous food and is friendly and welcoming.
My main course that last day was certainly memorable. I was served a tender pork loin with a velvety lavender sauce. Who would’ve thought this would be such an exceptionally beautiful combination! After that wonderful meal, I was reminded about how much I love lavender. In my garden, bath and pillow, but also in my food. In fact, there are three lavender recipes on this blog that can attest to that! Ever tried lavender in jam or in baked treats? Well here’s your chance! The one thing you have to remember is that you must use edible lavender. For those in the Netherlands, I got a bag at Dille & Kamille (not sponsored), but you can also try health food shops or organic supermarkets.
I recreated the pork loin recipe one Saturday evening and it was quite a success. However, I did not write down the recipe. Stay tuned!
In the meantme, here is a lavender creation all ready for you to try your hand at. This strawberry and lavender mousse is an elegant, summery dessert that can be made in advance. In other words, it’s the perfect way to end any dinner party in the months ahead! Enjoy!
Strawberry & Lavender Mousse
Serves 4-6 (depending on the size cups you use)
- 300g strawberries, plus some extra as garnish
- 1 1/2 tsps dried edible lavender
- 4 tbsps sugar
- 5 sheets of gelatin
- 250g mascarpone
- 200ml single cream
Place the strawberries, lavender and sugar in a blender and blitz into a smooth sauce. Pour into a small saucepan and heat while stirring for approximately 5 minutes. In the meantime, soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze out the gelatin sheets and add them into the hot sauce one by one stirring well after each. Allow the mixture to cool. Whip the mascarpone and cream until the mixture holds its shape. Carefully fold in the strawberry sauce in three batches. Do not stir too hard or whisk! Divide the mousse over 4 or 6 cups and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh strawberries and perhaps a sprig of mint.
There’s nothing I will not eat (as long as it’s food, of course). I have a healthy appetite and an adventurous palate. One of my favorite things growing up was my mother’s tripe soup. The whole house reeked when she made it, but the taste was sublime. I would greedily slurp up a bowl and ask for seconds without hesitation. One time, when I was about eight or nine, I invited a friend over while my mother was making the soup. Either she was very polite or there was something wrong with her sense of smell because she didn’t so much as wince disapprovingly. In fact, when my mother offered her a bowl, she nodded her head in agreement and we both slurped together. And asked for seconds together.
I suppose it’s much like French andouillette, a sausage made from pig intestines (aka ‘chitterlings’). You either love it (if you can get past the smell)… or loathe it.
One of the things I was never too fond of, however, was caulifower. No matter how I prepared the curdy-looking white vegetable, it tasted insipidly unpleasant. Like hospital food. No amount of salt would make it better.
Until I put on my hipster hat and learned to use it as a replacement for potatoes, rice and other types of refined carbs, that is. The first time I tried it instead of mashed potatoes, I was sold. Yesterday I whipped up a batch paella-style (sans seafood and meat) and it was delicious. To think that you can wolf this down in large quantities without ever having to experience an ounce of guilt. After all, it’s just vegetables! I will be adding some shrimp the next time, though.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 600g cauliflower, trimmed into florets and blitzed in a food processor
- 2 tsps turmeric
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper
- 150g green peas
- 2 roasted sweet peppers (from a jar), chopped
- squeeze of lemon
- optional: shrimp, mussels, cooked chicken
Heat the olive oil in a large casserole. Add the cauliflower and cook for a minute before stirring in the turmeric, smoked paprika and salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the red peppers shortly before the end of the cooking time and squeeze in a bit of lemon. If you want you can add shrimp, mussels or cooked chicken toward the end of the cooking time. A scattering of flat-leaf parsley is also lovely, though I didn’t have any on hand.
I don’t know what got in to me, but I have a confession to make. Are you sitting down? OK, here goes…
I finally had a day off yesterday. The next issue of DUTCH is pretty much on its way to print, my next column for En Route only needs some polishing, and I have rounded off a few interesting translating assignments. So what did I do during my ‘breather’? I started with a long run. It was fabulous weather, so I really went for it. It felt like I was flying! Unfortunately, I think I need to cut down on my sessions a bit because later that evening my knee was killing me. I honestly don’t know how I slept. Major bummer. It’s better today but still not 100%. Good reason to schedule an appointment with the physiotherapist, which is what I did this morning.
Before the knee pain hit. however, I had a chance to give the house a good scrub. The French doors were filthy! As I was scrubbing them I wondered why I had gone running — it was one heck of a workout! But all my efforts were well worth it. By the end of the day, the house was tidy again, the floors were clean, I had done several laundries… and I even managed to squeeze in baking a cake! One with booze!
For those of you who aren’t Dutch or don’t live in the Netherlands, the cake has brandy-soaked apricots, known as ‘boerenmeisjes’, which translates to ‘farmer girls’ . It is a popular treat in the north of the country and usually enjoyed in a small glass on special occasions. It i also used to top pancakes or ice cream. For added color, I added in some fresh raspberries. The cake has a lovely tender crumb and is perfect with tea in the garden on a sunny day… or scarfed on the couch with one’s feet up after a long day playing Cinderella! Enjoy!
Cake with ‘Boerenmeisjes’ & Raspberries
- 100g soft butter
- 130g raw cane sugar, plus 2 tbsps for sprinkling
- 2 eggs
- 150g boerenmeisjes (brandy-soaked apricots), chopped, plus 2 tbsps brandy
- 150g Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 220g all-purpose flour
- 125g fresh raspberries
Butter and flour a round 20cm springform tin and preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar with a standing or hand-held mixer until pale and creamy. Add in the brandy from the boerenmeisjes and the eggs one by one while continuing to beat. Fold in the yogurt using a wooden spoon. In a bowl, combine the baking powder with the flour. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Fold in the boerenmeisjes and raspberries and pour the batter into the tin. Sprinkle with the 2 tbsps sugar. Pop into the oven and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.