Joyeuses Pâques!

Joyeuses Pâques!

In my family, we don’t celebrate Easter in a religious way. Unless, of course, you consider a strong taste for chocolate to be a religion of sorts. Which I do.

My sister and I have received chocolate gifts from our parents for Easter every year since we were little. The traditional gift in France is a hollow chocolate shell, shaped like an egg, hen, duck, rabbit or bell, and filled with other confections : small pieces of chocolate shaped like fish and called friture (friture literally means something fried, but it is also the name of the tiny fried fish they serve in the South of France and which those little chocolates are meant to represent), praline-filled eggs, tiny eggs filled with liquor, chocolate-covered pieces of nougatine… This all comes in a characteristic cardboard box with a handle, decorated with Easter-themed illustrations, and which a little girl can recycle in a thousand ways.

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Pounti

Pounti

When we were at the Marché d’Aligre the other day, I noticed a charcuterie with a sign that said : Ramenez votre pain et je réalise votre sandwich avec mes produits fermiers.” (“Bring your own bread, I’ll make you a sandwich with my farm products.”) I thought the idea excellent : a truly outstanding sandwich is made of the best ingredients on the best bread, and it is quite rare to find a vendor who has both. I also liked the fact that this charcutier recognizes what he’s good at, from what simply isn’t his specialty.

We chatted with him a little, and he explained that all his products are from a farm in Auvergne (a mountainous region in the center of France), called la Ferme du Bruel. He used to work at the farm himself, before moving up to Paris to manage that market stand. The farm is actually what’s called a ferme-auberge, a farm which also operates as a restaurant, where they mostly serve their own products.

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Goose Eggs and Truffles

Goose Eggs and Truffles

Last Saturday, while we waited for the balsamic vinegar tasting to begin, Maxence and I seized the opportunity to explore the covered part of the Marché d’Aligre, where the tasting took place. The stands (butchers, cheese stores, charcuteries, bakeries, produce stalls…) are more upscale there than in the open-air area, and the products tend to be pricier, but the displays are sure tempting.

We browsed around the alleys and bought a few things, excitedly composing the kind of picnic-style Sunday lunch we like so much : cold cuts, olives, dry sausages, tapenade or a spread of some sort, a generous selection of cheeses, as well as a nice salad and some good bread.

While at the cheese stand, Maxence exclaimed over a tray of really huge, stark white eggs. “Des oeufs d’oie“, explained the cheese lady. Goose eggs? Our eyes opened even wider (those city kids!), and a string of questions were subsequently asked : how why when where and what with? We decided to get two : this would round up our Sunday lunch nicely. Spotting the motorcycle helmets we carried, the cheese lady made sure the eggs were wrapped up cosily.

It also seemed like the perfect occasion to use the black truffles we had bought last summer while on vacation in the Périgord.

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Lait Ribot

Lait ribot

Lait ribot is a traditional fermented milk that has been made in Brittany for thousands of years, dating back to the Gauls. It is in fact fermented babeurre, or bas-beurre (litterally “low-butter”), which is the white liquid that remains after you’ve beaten cream to make butter. Ribotte, besides sounding cute, is an old word for churn, hence the name of the milk (laez ribod in Breton).

Because it was nutritious and cheap, it used to be widely consumed. People would drink it as a snack, or to accompany a meal of potatoes or buckwheat galettes.

It tastes like a pleasantly tart, drinkable yogurt that’s ever-so-slightly sparkling: if you look at the surface, you can see the tiny bubbles. It is similar in taste to the Middle Eastern kefir, which is also produced in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Central Asian koumys. (Update : it is not like the Russian kwass, as originally written.)

I enjoy it tremendously, and it used to be my drink of choice when we ate at crêperiesin Brittany when I was a child. It was served in a thick-rimmed earthenware bowl, and sipping from this unusual tumbler was as much a part of the pleasure as the fresh, thirst-quenching drink itself.

Lait ribot is somewhat difficult to come by in Paris (kefir is much easier to find), but I’ve occasionally seen bottles of it on display at my cheese store. I don’t own the special bowls to drink it in, but it is still lovely drunk from a glass.

Apricot Sticky Toffee Pudding

Apricot Sticky Toffee Pudding

[Apricot Sticky Toffee Pudding]

This past Sunday afternoon, we had decided to throw a little surprise birthday party for my dear friend Laurence. This sounded like the perfect occasion to try and recreate my own sticky toffee pudding miracle.

Among the different recipes that I had dug out or that you kindly recommended, my favorite was the one by Jill Dupleix, in part because it involved way way way less butter than the others. While hers called for dates, I knew that Rose Bakery’s sticky toffee pudding was made with apricots, so that’s what I used instead.

The pudding base was very easy to throw together, especially since I used my trusted food processor. I did have a harder time with the toffee sauce : it just wouldn’t caramelize and thicken. I think the thickness problem was that I couldn’t let it get into a full rolling boil, because my saucepan was a tad small, and the sauce, being cream-based, threatened to overflow. After a while I did manage to let it boil for five minutes without stirring, and it took on the right texture (thick and smooth) and the right taste (toffee, oh my!). It remained cream-colored however, when I was hoping for the same golden brown hue as my role model. I realized afterwards that I used white sugar when the recipe called for brown sugar : when I jotted down the ingredients, I forgot to copy the “brown”… Oh well, here’s something new : albino toffee sauce!

I took the still warm pudding and the sauce to Laurence’s appartment, where I glazed one with the other at the last minute. The designated candle-bearing cake was Ludo and Marie-Laure’s wonderluscious Gâteau Poire Amandine (a pear and almond cake), but I still planted one candle on mine for good luck.

The sticky toffee pudding was then sliced and served. Oh, how delighted with the result I was! It was exactly the sweet taste and moist texture I was trying to achieve. My co-eaters also enjoyed it very much : just like me, none of them had ever tasted anything of the sort.

And since I have acquired a 1kg bag of dried apricots at G.Detou to make this, I am most definitely repeating this very very soon! As a final note, the pudding base is so tasty that it could certainly be served without the sauce, for a lighter and quicker dessert.

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