We’re settling in to our place in the country near Versailles. And despite recent legal rumblings around custody issues, I heard on Friday that we are here to stay. Forgive me. I have to write that again to help it sink in; we are here to stay.
It is giddily appropriate that this news should come as spring well and truly arrives. All doors and windows onto the garden have been flung open and my kitchen/sitting room/deck/terrasse is forming one, bright peaceful room, soundtracked by birdsong, fragranced by the contents of the oven. Yesterday I allowed myself to open the last of the boxes of kitchen stuff in the garage, and all my old favourite cake tins and cooking stuff have been located and put away again, mindfully and closer to hand.
We’re now about 10 km from St Germain en Laye, where the children are at school, but my shopping habits and favourite addresses have not changed. If anything, they are forming a much more definite routine, as the school run gives rhythm to the day so differently from waiting for the children to wander home on foot.
I thought I’d start writing again about feeding my children and here, then, is my Sunday market vegetable shop. All 21€ of it. (The asparagus was very tempting this morning, but was mostly from Mexico, Peru and Spain with the first violet topped Provençal spears weighing in at around 17 € a kilo, so I decided to wait a few weeks more for a true taste bomb.) Just in at Maison Huet, were lovely new carrots and turnips. I have rosemary, bay and thyme in my garden but it’s looking very sad after such a harsh winter so I bought 1 € sprigs of each, along with the last of Huet’s sage to go with the rolled shoulder of pork lined up for today’s lunch. I picked up the first spring goats’ cheese at The Normandy Stall of Everything, reckoning my 87,50 € shop, with 15 € or so for top ups of bread, eggs etc. should more or less cover all our meals for the week. I’ll keep you posted.
Shoulder of pork à la cocotte with sage.
1 boned (or not) shoulder of pork
1 small sprig of sage
2 cloves garlic peeled
zest of a lemon
salt, pepper, olive oil
Make a paste in a mini blender with the garlic, lemon, sage leaves and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and rub the meat all over with the paste. Let it stand for 30 minutes or so (you can wrap it up in cling film and leave itto properly marinade overnight, but I was in a hurry)
Heat the oven to 180°. Heat some oil in a heavy based casserole dish and brown the meat all over. Deglaze the pot with some water, bring it to the boil, put the lid on, slip the pot into the oven and cook for an hour and a half.
Remove the meat from the pot, keeping it warm before slicing.
Pour the cooking juices from the cocotte – remove some of the fat and reduce them if you can be bothered. It will make all the difference to the taste.
Serve with new turnips and carrots, simply peeled and steamed.
Talk to Paris-based food writer Trish Deseine about chocolate and it seems that she sees enjoying it as a near-spiritual experience. “The singer Adele says that when she sings ‘Someone Like You’, there’s a sort of pact with her audience – everyone recognises and shares the emotions she sings about. Well, chocolate does that, too,” explains Trish. “Its pleasure is so universal that even complete strangers seem to enter into some kind of communion when they eat it together.”
Moving to France in the 1980s, she gave up a career in marketing in 2000 to sell her chocolates by mail-order from home. It wasn’t long before her unique style was spotted by publishers and her writing and TV careers took off. These days, Trish divides her time between Paris, a country town near Versailles and Languedoc, where she’s converting an old bakery into a holiday home. There are also plenty more cookbooks on the horizon: “It’s what I love doing most.”
20 Oreos (or other chocolate cream biscuits)
175g unsalted butter
400g crunchy peanut butter
175g icing sugar, sifted
200g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
Bill Granger portrait: Anson Smart
Vegetarian bolognese photography: Jonathan Gregson
Oreo & peanut butter pie photography: Jeremy Simons
Oreo & peanut butter pie styling: David Morgan
LINK TO FULL PAGE HERE