Rough seas, endless beaches, and food that kept me happy from the morning till the night. I went to France and it was a feast.
I got spoiled with a spontaneous trip to Normandy, to the picturesque seaside village of Le Touquet. Five nights, five days and luckily, I didn’t have much time to make plans beforehand or to build up expectations. This kept me relaxed and the activities very basic: I went from my bed to the opulent breakfast table, then straight to the beach for long walks, a quick snack on the ‘high street’ before teatime or an aperitif at our hotel’s beautiful old bar; at 7pm I was dressed pretty and ready for the French way of dining – luscious feasting that makes you forget about everything around you and lets you sleep like a baby. Those were my days in Normandy.
We couldn’t have organized our arrival at the majestic Le Westminster any better. We were hungry and stepped out of the car just in time for lunch. The hotel’s bistro offered a French classic, Steak Tartare, and a fantastic dish of potatoes, cut thinly and cooked like risotto, with smoked eel and truffles. A glass of Sancerre and our French immediately came out more fluently. It was the beginning of a culinary trip that couldn’t have satisfied my taste buds any better: the freshest oysters, lobster, large rock crab, prawns, and sea snails, Breton Cotriade (fish soup with potatoes) topped with half a lobster (preferable enjoyed at Perard on Rue de Metz), Moules Frites, oeufs a la neige (floating island), and wonderful salads, all very simple combinations with only a few ingredients, but the results were superb.
During our first walk through the village I spotted a fantastic pâtisserie. My instinct is very reliable when it comes to sweets, I can ‘smell’ where I can find the best éclair au café, croissants, little tartes Tropéziennes, brioche and baguette. The bakery’s staff saw me daily. The farmers’ market on Saturday is a weekly celebration in the village, fruits and vegetables, salamis and patés, the most fragrant (and pungent) cheeses, the fishermen’s catch from the night, honey and jam, all laid out in front of us. We were like kids in a candy store and bought bags full of delicacies, which we then stored in the car for a couple days. It was quite cold outside so it didn’t harm the food. However, the cheese infused the car with such a distinct aroma that I’m sure we’ll enjoy it for a few months.
As much as I love a glass of Champagne and a plate full of Atlantic oysters sprinkled with mignonette (chopped shallots in vinegar), the simple pleasures are sometimes the best in life. Le Touquet has an excellent Crêperie, Aux Mignardises Saint Jean, where you can watch the masters of crêpe cook such delicious creations as crêpe au caramel or au citron (both tested and approved). The simple yet so genius addition of a good squeeze of lemon juice really hit me. It was totally new to me, how could I miss it? You just have to cook a thin crêpe, sprinkle it with a little sugar, and drizzle it with the sour juices of the citrus fruit. First I started with a few drops, but then I learned that you can be generous, the more lemon aroma, the better! Back home, I already made it twice and here’s the recipe for you. If you feel like a quick, but scrumptious breakfast, or if you’d like to impress your guests at your next dinner party, flip some crêpes in the pan and buy a bunch of lemons.
Another treat, a savoury buckwheat galette, was just as good and included ham, cheese, and an egg. It was actually so good that I might also share this recipe with you in the near future.
And if you’re not into citrus, try one of these recipes:
Crêpes au Citron
Makes about 15-20 crêpes
plain flour, sifted, 260g / 2 cups
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup, plus more to sprinkle the crêpes
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
organic eggs 4
milk 1/2l / 2 cups and 2 tablespoons
butter, to cook the crêpes
fresh lemons, cut in half, about 2-3
fresh mint leaves, a small handful (optional)
In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, mix the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk until smooth; let the batter sit for about 10 minutes (at room temperature) to 1 hour (in the fridge).
In a large, heavy or non-stick pan, melt half a teaspoon of butter on medium-high heat. Pour in a ladle of the dough, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the dough spreads evenly and very thinly. The crêpes won’t need more than 30-60 seconds on each side once the heat is set right. When the crêpe is slightly golden on both sides, sprinkle with a little (!) sugar, fold twice so that it forms a triangle, and transfer to a large plate. Cover with a large plate or lid. Continue with the remaining batter until you have about 15-20 crêpes. You should always melt 1/2 -1 teaspoon of butter in the pan before you cook the next crêpe.
Serve the crêpes warm, sprinkled with additional sugar to taste, drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste), and decorate with a few mint leaves. Bon appétit!