Archive of ‘My Heart’s Home (France)’ category

Week at the French Seaside

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage is known as one of the most luxurious beach resorts in the north of France. Wealthy Parisians have beautiful summer villas there, and the resort was a favorite among people such as Serge Gainsbourg, Marlène Dietrich and Winston Churchill. One of its most famous residents today may just well be French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron!
We fell in love with Le Touquet years ago during our first trip to the north of France, and since then, we alternate either early winter in Bourgogne or late spring in Le Touquet. Last week we had another wonderful holiday at this gorgeous coastal town. It was only five days, but it felt like so much more. We enjoyed wonderful (and not so wonderful!) French food, had the fortune of having fantastic weather (albeit a little on the chilly side), and enjoyed walks on the beach with our little digger Pastis (who gave me quite a scare when he got sand in his eyes!). Here are some snapshots of our week, for those who didn’t already see them on Instagram. PS: There are more there.
I am looking forward to going back already! Never visited? Have a look at this link:

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Our ‘welcome to France’ meal has always been steak-frites. And the best we’ve ever had is served at Brasserie de la Paix in Sainte Cecile. Everything is perfect here. The wine, the desserts, the ambience!

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Brasserie de la Paix, from the outside. The beach is two steps away.

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Some of the seaside houses of Le Touquet. The really fancy ones on their own private little hills are about a five-minute drive from the beach and city center.

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This could have been the best meal ever! We went for a drive and ended up in a coastal town called Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. There we stopped at Le Bistrot de St. Val where I started with six beautiful oysters before moving on to this sumptuous choucroute de la mer! Sauerkraut, various types of seafood and a delectable cream sauce to gloriously crown it all. The wine was gorgeous and the setting at their veranda just perfect.

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After lunch, we walked through the center of town, Beautiful little French village!

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Our next stop was Cayeux-sur-Mer.

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Majestic views around Camiers.

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On Wednesday, we visited Boulogne-sur-Mer and ate at the cozy restaurant La Pierre Chaud. Run by a friendly couple, eating at the restaurant feels like coming home after a long day at work. I started with a herring salad and my main was a traditional dish of northern France called ‘potjevleesch’, a terrine with various types of meats such as rabbit, pork, veal and chicken. I can’t even tell you how good it is — though it may not look that appetizing!

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After lunch, it was time to walk off some of the calories!

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Square at Boulogne-sur-Mer.

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On Thursday morning, hubby and I headed for the market in Le Touquet where we enjoyed coffee and croissants in the sun! Kirstie stayed at the hotel with Pastis as markets are not all that interesting to them.

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The covered part of the market is the best part! We got some bits and pieces for dinner that day, including a tasty piece of duck-pepper terrine from Prince Mulard!

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And no trip to the north of France would be complete without buying a chunk of the stinkiest and tastiest of cheeses — Maroilles! Look at this beautiful cheese stand!

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Our final lunch in France was at Á Table in Le Touquet’s Rue du Metz. Wonderfully cozy place. We started with this lovely goat’s cheese salad and our main was pork loin in mustard-lavender sauce! A flavor explosion! By the way, we had a pretty horrible experience at Le Matisse (where I got served the most vile Belgian endive salad) and at Au Marché (where Kirstie was served a bleeding burger and I ended up a bit sick; a shame as we loved this restaurant in the past). But we didn’t let those hiccups ruin our fun!

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Our final sunset at le Touquet. Can’t wait to be back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salade Lyonnaise

 

salade lyonnaiseThis weekend while having lunch at Het Hert (great, little restaurant in Naarden, by the way), my husband and I discussed our vacation plans. Every year the same question arises: “Duras or something else?” — in France, obviously. We have been visiting Duras every summer since 2009 and every time we fall in love with the village and surrounding area even more. Driving into Duras always feels like coming home. So much so, that I’ve even joked about having lived there in a past life. We love that place so much. But we also love all the other villages and cities in the area. Like Miramont, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Monségur, Issigeac, Soumensac, Marmande and Bergerac. And of course places like Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux and Arcachon, which are a little further away and well worth the drive.
So, as you may have guessed, it didn’t take long for us to decide that this summer it was going to be Duras, for the ninth time! We rented a beautiful house from one of our friends there and I am already looking forward to August! Our hotels for overnight stops in Vierzon and Orléans have also been booked. Yay!
But first, plenty of other things to look forward to — like our trip to Le Touquet-Paris-Plage in April and working on my cookbook. Most of my days are spent immersed in studying, writing about and practicing French cuisine. Yesterday I made a lovely Flan Parisien (hurray for the new oven — which came in a week late, but still). For lunch, I quickly threw together a Salade Lyonnaise. Of course, I could not find frisée salad (something to do with it being Sunday and living in a Dutch suburb), so I had to settle for romaine, which wasn’t a bad alternative. I wrote a very rough recipe, which I am sharing with you today. The full (and improved recipe) will be in my book — more about that in due time!
Have a great week!

Salade Lyonnaise
Serves 3

  • 1 1/2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsps sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried chervil
  • 1/2 dried parsley
  • Fleur de sel & freshly cracked pepper
  • 6 handfuls of crisp lettuce leaves
  • knob of butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 100g lardons
  • 1/4 baguette, cubed
  • 3 tbsps white wine vinegar
  • 3 fresh eggs

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, dried herbs and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Reserve 1 1/2 tbsp of the dressing and toss the lettuce leaves in the rest, making sure they are coated with the dressing. Divide over 3 plates. Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the shallots. Add the bacon, increase the heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cubed bread and toss for another five minutes. In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to a simmer for the eggs. Add the vinegar and stir with a whisk to create a whirlpool effect. Add each egg one by one to the water and poach for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 minutes, depending on their size. Add the reserved dressing to the bread and bacon, give it a final stir and divide over the salad. Top with the poached egg, season with a little salt and serve.

Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne

Blanquette de veau à l’ancienneOne winter, when we had lunch at brasserie Le Commerce — what was to become one of our favorite restaurants in Autun, the kind frequented mostly by locals — I started with a cocotte of snails in a garlicky cream sauce. They were so good! The sauce was thick and velvety and I mopped it up with thick chunks of bread. As though that wasn’t enough cream and calories, for my main course, I chose the blanquette de veau à l’ancienne. It was my first time trying this classic French dish and I absolutely fell in love with it. Tender chunks of veal blanketed in a smooth, mild sauce with a side of fluffy, white rice. The epitome of comfort food! Every time we go back on a wine trip through Bourgogne, we always stop at Le Commerce and you can be sure that I will order blanquette de veau.
Oddly enough, it has taken me way too long to try my hand at my own version. But last night, I proudly served a blanquette de veau that was heaven on earth. Make this dish on a cold, winter night. I promise you, the first bite will feel like falling in love.

 

Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne
Serves 4

  • 700g veal shoulder, cubed
  • 1 ½ L water
  • 1 onion, peeled and studded with 2 cloves
  • 2 carrots, peeled and in large chunks
  • 1 leek, in large chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp mixed peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • 225g mushrooms, small ones halved, large ones quartered
  • 6 small shallots, halved
  • 30g butter
  • 30g flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100ml crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • rice, to serve
  • parsley, to garnish

Rinse the veal really well under cold running water. Place the chunks in a large heavy-bottomed casserole and cover with the water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Skim off any scum and then stir in the onion, carrots, leek, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, nutmeg and salt. Cover and cook gently for 2 hours. About 20 minutes towards the end of the cooking time, get your rice going. In a large saucepan, gently fry the mushrooms (they should not color) in 1 tbsp of the butter for 5 minutes and set aside in a bowl. Soften the shallots in the other tbsp of butter. Do this gently too, nothing should color in this dish. Drain the meat and vegetables, making sure to reserve 500ml of the stock. Reserve the meat and the carrots. In the saucepan where you fried the mushrooms and shallots, melt the butter over a medium heat and whisk in the flour. Add the hot stock while whisking. Once the sauce is thick, cook for 5 minutes gently. Return the meat and carrots to the pan. Also add in the mushrooms and shallots. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Whisk the egg yolk, crème fraîche and lemon juice (this is called a liaison) in a small bowl. Add this to the sauce while stirring well with a wooden spoon. The dish should be barely simmering. Leave on the heat for 5 more minutes while stirring occasionally. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of parsley.

Gâteau au Yaourt

gateauauyaourtIn France, the gâteau au yaourt is a true classic and part of the repertoire of all home cooks. There’s a wonderful simplicity about this cake. Even children and the most novice of cooks can make it with excellent results. All of the main ingredients are weighed with a pot of yogurt, hence the name. But the charm of this beautiful yogurt cake is in its tender crumb and versatility. You can flavor it with citrus zest, stir in some fruit or serve it with Nutella or jam. A Twitter friend, Jeremie, suggested stirring in blackberries, assuring me it would be a “taste of heaven”.
Though the cake is suitable for almost all occasions, I like to serve it with tea, on pretty plates with a dollop of  crème fraîche, fresh strawberries and perhaps a few shavings of dark chocolate.
By the way, you can replace the yogurt with sour cream, Greek yogurt or even crème fraîche. All would work beautifully in this cake.
Happy weekend and enjoy!

Note: Check the 20 minutes into the baking time to make sure the cake is not getting to brown. Should that be the case, cover with aluminum foil.

Gâteau au Yaourt
Serves 8

  • 1 pot of yogurt (125 g)
  • 2 pots of all-purpose flour
  • 2 pots of sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ pot sunflower oil
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 organic lemon

Preheat oven to 190° C. Lightly grease a 20 cm springform tin, and dust the sides with flour. In a large bowl whisk all of the ingredients until thoroughly mixed and the batter is smooth and satiny. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a rack before unmolding.

 

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