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This Cannes restaurant’s name aptly describes itself, because it truly is a hit with customers!

Le Hit — Chez Jean-Louis is my favourite restaurant in the city. Others come close, but for top ratings on food, prices and hospitality, you cannot do better. Its location is also excellent, as it is a short walk away from the railway station and main bus stop.

Here is a bit about our past and present experiences at 12 rue du 24 août (24th of August Street) in Cannes.

Au Bec Fin

Many years ago there was a family-owned restaurant at 12 rue du 24 août called Au Bec Fin.

I ate there in May 1978, on my first visit to Cannes. It was the first time I’d ever had frogs legs. Smothered in a Provençal olive oil sauce with diced tomato and garlic, they were out of this world. Since then, I have always had frogs legs in Cannes. I consider it to be a good precursor of a return visit.

So, when my far better half (FBH) and I began taking holidays in the city, we used to go there. On our visit in 1999, we had their bourride, which is a Cannois version of bouillabaisse. Au Bec Fin’s came with the best ever rouille (rust) made from aïoli — a garlicky, saffron-infused mayonnaise — combined with plenty of paprika. Rouille is used to flavour the soup. I’ve tried many times to reproduce it at home but mine never tastes as good as theirs did.

Their steak tartare was also the best we’d ever had, and the accompanying skinny fries were out of this world. We have since been able to reproduce the tartare at home. Here is the recipe.

The interior of the restaurant was modest. There were old film canisters and strips of film hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately, those intriguing ornaments had to be removed, no doubt thanks to new health and safety laws.

There was a charming elderly woman who used to eat dinner there. I assume that was her daily meal and, at her age, probably all she needed for the next 24 hours. They did serve ample portions.

The staff always made conversation with her and other regular locals used to sit with her to chat.

Then, on our 2009 trip, we found to our great disappointment that Au Bec Fin had closed. What a sad day that was.

It became a lunch spot, and, in time, we lost track of it. The Cannes restaurant scene is ever changing, and the transformations the new owners make with their establishments pretty much obliterate what went before.

2017 — Le Hit

On our 2017 visit, we walked down the street and found Le Hit — Chez Jean-Louis.

The menu looked intriguing, so we made a reservation.

We were not sure what to expect, but it ended up being every bit as good as Au Bec Fin.

Jean-Louis gave us a warm welcome, as if he’d known us for years.

We ate there twice that year.

Jean-Louis has reasonably priced prix fixe menus and serves ample portions.

First visit

I noted the day we had our first dinner there: ‘Would return’.

Starters

FBH had salmon tartare.

I had frogs legs prepared in a nearly identical fashion to Au Bec Fin’s. This would have been enough for a main course. Sumptuous! A la carte, they cost €17.

Mains

FBH ordered steak tartare with big, fat chips. There was a bit of salad on the side. FBH said the tartare was too eggy. However, the fries were good, and the salad was dressed in a tasty vinaigrette.

I did much better with my gambas — big prawns — and rice, prepared similarly to the Provençal-style frogs legs. Delicious!

Wine

We enjoyed a bottle of Bandol rosé: La Bastide Blanche 2015, from the Bronzo family in Var (83330 Le Castellet).

Dessert

I ordered a cheese plate with four different kinds of French cheese and a side of salad. It came with a basket of bread along with butter. Superb!

Hospitality

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we were the last customers to leave.

Jean-Louis came over to talk to us after taking cigarette breaks outside the hairdresser’s across the street. He always asked how we liked each course and made small talk, which made us feel welcome.

Second visit

We made a return visit to Le Hit a week later.

Starters

I had frogs legs again and was not disappointed.

FBH ordered their homemade duck foie gras mi-cuit (pâté). It was a generous plate with a few slices — rather than just one — of foie gras, accompanied by a competently made fig chutney. As with the frogs legs, this is a meal in itself.

Mains

FBH had swordfish — espadon — with a delicious ratatouille.

I had the steak tartare this time. Yes, it was too eggy, but the chips were ‘top’, as the French say, and the salad brilliant.

Wine

We ordered the same Bandol (see above).

Dessert

We had eaten sufficiently and did not partake of dessert!

Hospitality

Once again, we were the last to leave.

Jean-Louis sat down at the table next to us, and we had a lengthy conversation with him about setting up a business and aspects of his private life.

FBH asked about Au Bec Fin. Jean-Louis said, ‘This is it! This is the same address!’

He told us that, for the first few years, he served only lunch before expanding into a dinner service. That was probably the lunch spot we had seen a few years earlier.

Incidentally, L’Internaute states that Le Hit was opened in 2010 by Jean-Louis Barthélemy.

Wow!

As I said above, we had no idea anymore because of subsequent restaurants in that street.

He introduced us to his intended successor, who was cleaning up behind the bar before returning to the kitchen.

We had a really good time and, once we left, put the restaurant on our list for a return visit in 2019.

2019

This year, we made two visits to Le Hit.

First visit

We could hardly wait to get there.

Starters

I had — what else? — frogs legs. I noted in my diary: ‘HUGE!’ The price has gone up by only €1 to €18.

FBH ordered the foie gras and salad again, pronouncing it ‘excellent’.

Mains

Jean-Louis came by with a slate listing dishes from that day’s lunch menu. He smiled and said, ‘We still have a few items left over, if you are interested’.

FBH ordered the duck breast off the prix fixe menu.

I had a look at the slate, which Jean-Louis reviewed in detail. One item caught my eye, something I’d never had: andouillette. Jean-Louis warned, ‘It’s tripe sausage, you know. I don’t like it, personally. That said, I only have three portions left.’

Yes, I knew what it was and I was willing to try it only at a restaurant I trusted: ‘Fine by me, I’ll have the andouillette’.

I was not disappointed. Instead of the tripe being minced, the chef had tightly rolled up the tripe and somehow managed to get it in the casing. It looked beautiful and tasted even better. It had very little intestinal taste at all. The accompanying sauce was plentiful and piquant, a perfect complement.

I told Jean-Louis that he was missing out on a real treat and asked him to relay my compliments to the chef.

Wine

We enjoyed a Côte de Provence: Estandon Rosé, which Jean-Louis says his own family enjoys.

Dessert

We did not have dessert that night.

Hospitality

Jean-Louis remembered us by sight. He told us that he had stopped smoking. I replied that we hadn’t, so would appreciate sitting outside once again.

We were among the last to leave!

Our bill came to €113.

Second visit

We ate there again before we left.

Our bill came to €196, so you know we enjoyed ourselves. This was our highest restaurant bill ever in Cannes.

Starters

No prizes for guessing what I had.

FBH enjoyed a beautiful plate of scallops flambéed in Calvados. No skimping here: the plate was full.

Both are among the prix fixe dishes.

Mains

We both ordered a delightful and memorable plate of squid à la Provençale, accompanied by small slices of the best chorizo I’ve ever had. I don’t know if Jean-Louis bought it at the market or if he has a specialist supplier, but the taste profile was out of this world. Sometimes chorizo has a slight tangy or sour taste, but this was rich and smoky with paprika undertones.

As with most of Jean-Louis’s other dishes, this also came with a small side salad.

Dessert

We both had French cheese assortments, which were excellent.

Wine

We enjoyed two bottles of Bandol: La Bastide Blanche 2015.

Hospitality

Jean-Louis and his putative ‘successor’ once again made us feel very welcome.

Both asked during and after each course whether we enjoyed what we had. Yes, we most certainly did enjoy all of the courses! We were members of the Clean Plate Club!

Jean-Louis attention to his customers is top-notch. His assistant, the successor, is also attentive to customers’ needs.

After we finished our second bottle of Bandol and had a bit of a pause, Jean-Louis came up to us and asked in the most congenial way, ‘And what can I get you to drink?’ I had Sambuca. FBH had brandy.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and look forward to going back, if all goes well for us and them, in 2021.

Additional notes

Judging from the photos on Le Hit’s Facebook page, we are far from being the only customers to have had a delightful time there.

A couple from nearby Mougins who commented on TripAdvisor in April 2019 were as enthralled with Le Hit as we were. An excerpt follows (translation in the original):

In short that happiness, a warm welcome, an irreproachable service by the Head waiter for a real meal composed of fresh ingredients, and simmered as at home.

The best part of all this is that you do not pay more than some crowded restaurants that have succumbed to sirens vacuum industrial products and reheated by a microwave attendant.

So my wife and I thought we were going to repeat the experience, to see if it was a stroke of luck, and we went back several times.

Well in the end, we are very satisfied, we can assure you that the quality is constant which is rare, not to say exceptional.

An authentic restaurant as we like, that does not cheat with its customers no false pretense, nor darling and even less junk food.

It has happened to us to exchange with other guests who share the taste for the true traditional and tasty food … but also that of the conviviality and the authenticity, in short all the opposite of the shameless and the eternal dissatisfied …

You can go there with our eyes closed, we, since this discovery, we return regularly !

Enjoy your meal in the Hit !

Betty & Hubert

https://www.tripadvisor.fr/ShowUserReviews-g187221-d2692906-r666949554-Le_Hit-Cannes_French_Riviera_Cote_d_Azur_Provence_Alpes_Cote_d_Azur.html#

You can get a better view of the interior courtesy of La Fourchette and can see autographs from the jazz musicians who play there on Friday — perhaps also Saturday — nights.

The unisex restroom is immaculate. It has three different notices asking customers to please leave it as clean as they found it.

Conclusion

Now you know why Le Hit is my favourite restaurant in Cannes.

Next week, we’ll look at FBH’s faves.

One of President Donald Trump’s favourite meals is meat loaf, which is on the menu at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

According to Nancy Ellison at One for the Table, Trump has long been offering his club members and their guests suggestions on what to order. I have read that he often recommends the meat loaf, but Ms Ellison has more (emphases mine):

His real joy in life is acting the Host. “Try the chopped steak. It’s the best! …You know what’s great – the pretzel bread… This individually wrapped butter is so good. I don’t like those little flower butters. There is always a finger print on them!” The real secret is that Donald Trump wants his guests to feel good, important and to be happy … as happy as he felt when his mother, Scottish born Mary MacLeod Trump fixed Meat Loaf for him as a child. “I loved my mother and I loved her cooking … and, she was a real beauty!”

On the menu – along with the Raw Oysters, Champagne and Caviar – at Trump’s exclusive Mar–a-Lago Club, Mary MacLeod Trump’s Meat Loaf rules, and it is truly a man’s meal; it has all the warmth of a cozy aromatic kitchen and the familiar comfortable masculinity of a favorite armchair – but tastier. And, it makes Donald Trump smile!

I have always wondered whether Mary MacLeod Trump’s meat loaf recipe would be revealed. Thankfully, Nancy Ellison provides it for us.

The readers’ comments specify that the breadcrumbs should be dried, not fresh.

I am always suspect of a meat loaf recipe that calls for beef only. My late maternal grandmother always used an equal mix of beef, pork and veal mince, having been taught that way in domestic science class in high school during the First World War, when it was no doubt a luxury, given that even the United States had rationing.

I thought my late grandmother’s was the best.

But, we shall see about a 100% beef meat loaf.

Having read so much about it, I plan to try it soon!

When we are in Cannes, one of the highlights of strolling down Rue Meynadier — the city’s second main shopping street — is seeing what Boucherie Brugère at No. 38 has on offer.

Also known as Au Roi du Charolais, this butcher’s shop has the best fresh meat in Cannes. L’Académie du Goût (Taste Academy) wrote a short article about Au Roi du Charolais, which Georges Brugères opened in 1996. It is currently run by Jean-Luc Olivari, who is from Nice and is the son of a livestock farmer. The meat comes from the most famous regions in France and is top quality:

Charolais beef, Limousin veal, Sisteron lamb, Bresse chicken — every item is one of tradition. The ribs of beef, specialities of the house, go to the “people” in the news, served on the yachts in the Bay of Cannes and in chic villas. Yet, every morning, the customer is king in Mr Olivari’s little shop.

One chill cabinet has whole volaille (chicken) de Bresse, complete with heads and feet. The one opposite has whatever is on offer that day. When we went there was a lot of lamb and veal, but also whole rabbit. How I wished that we were staying in rented accommodation so that I could prepare rabbit!

My wish came true once we got home. Last week, we bought a whole French rabbit for £8.99 from our own butcher! Gressingham Duck from Norfolk has been buying them and selling them to butchers in Britain.

You can get whole French rabbit online in the UK, but not at that incredibly low price. One place has it at £21.95 and another at £13.99.

I boned and sectioned the creature myself, which isn’t too difficult. When you buy the entire animal uncut, you get the offal, too!

This video from Scotland shows the various parts of the rabbit and how to butcher them:

After cutting the legs off, I cut my saddle (loin) slightly differently to the man in the video. I cut down the whole length of the back to get two lovely rabbit loins. Let the rabbit’s spine be your guide and make sure your knife is against the bone. That way, you’ll get all the delicious meat rather than leaving it behind.

Cut off the thin flaps of cartilage at each end of the loin and save for stock. Cut the backbone into four or five equal pieces.

To remove bones from the legs, slice down each one lengthwise and carefully cut the bone away from the flesh. A boning knife is particularly useful for this.

As one never knows how tender rabbit will be — and this is one of the major complaints from people who dislike eating it — it’s a good idea to marinate it.

Marinade for rabbit

1/2 cup port or white vermouth
3 cloves crushed garlic
3 to 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tbsp each of thyme, marjoram and oregano
1/2 tsp salt
two to three twists of cracked black pepper

I placed all the rabbit joints and the offal in the marinade and let set for 48 hours in the refrigerator. It probably takes less time, but I had another dinner planned for the intervening evening.

Stock

I made a delicious stock out of the bones and loin cartilage by sautéeing them in butter — you can also use lard or beef dripping — then filling the pot with water. Bring to a boil, skim and let simmer for an hour or two to reduce. Season to taste and remove from heat. Cool, then strain. The stock will become somewhat gelatinous, which is good.

Sautéed rabbit with sauce

Ingredients

Meat:

boned rabbit pieces
rabbit offal
1/2 cup seasoned flour (salt, black pepper, cayenne, with a scant teaspoon of mustard powder)
2 – 3 tbsp butter (I also use lard or beef dripping)

Sauce:

2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup rabbit stock
Salt, black pepper, cayenne to taste
2 tbsp heavy cream

Method

1/ Heat the fat in a large skillet until sizzling.

2/ While the fat is coming up to temperature, prepare the seasoned flour, place the rabbit pieces — though not the offal — in a large plastic bag for food use and shake well to coat them evenly.

3/ Place half the rabbit pieces in the hot pan. Cook for approximately four minutes on each side until golden brown. Place on an oven proof plate or in a similar dish. Repeat the process with the other half of the rabbit pieces. If you want to see what they should look like when done, here’s our Scotsman again to explain:

4/ Quickly sauté the offal for two minutes on each side. Remove them from the pan to the plate or dish with your rabbit meat.

5/ Make the sauce in the skillet used to cook the rabbit. Melt the butter and flour together and cook until flour is bubbling and has a golden colour. You will have made a roux!

6/ Add crushed garlic and, little by little, add in the rabbit stock to make a sauce. Stir well. The roux will remain somewhat solid until you stir in enough liquid. Adding the liquid gradually and stirring thoroughly will prevent lumps!

7/ Once the sauce is smooth, add cream, stir well, allow to cook for a couple of minutes and season to taste.

8/ When the sauce is finished, remove the skillet from the heat. You can reheat it later before serving.

9/ To reheat the rabbit, place the oven proof dish in the oven at 170° C / 350° F for ten minutes.

10/ To serve, place half the sauce on the dinner plate and put half the rabbit pieces on top of the sauce. As for the offal, cut the liver — huge! — in half, serve one kidney per person and cut the tiny heart in half.

The meat will be very tender.

The offal is fantastic. I was surprised to see how large a rabbit’s liver is. It’s about the same size as a goose liver. It has a slightly sweet flavour — delicious! The kidneys and hearts are also very tender and tasty.

One part of the rabbit we did not eat were the lungs.

I’m sorry now, because there’s a chef in Chicago who sautés the lungs and serves them in his restaurant. They sound like a real treat. Here is Jeffrey Hedin from Leopold to tell us all about it:

In closing, I would encourage everyone to try rabbit, whether whole or already jointed, fresh or frozen. It is out of this world and won’t cost the earth!

We first went to Aux P’tits Anges in 2017.

I found out about it online somewhere, because I was a bit fed up with the street hawkers and musicians strolling up and down Rue Felix Faure and Le Suquet outside of the main tourist restaurants.

Aux P’tits Anges fit the bill perfectly, as it is located far away from all that, yet is still in the centre of town on a side street near the Marché Gambetta: 4 Rue Marceau (near the corner of Boulevard de la République).

They still have the same maître d’, who likes speaking English. (He is fluent outside of saying ‘idee’ for ‘idea’, which is rather charming.) He worked in England for several months years ago and enjoys taking his family there on holiday.

The owner is the chef, by the way. He also employs two pastry chefs.

2017

Rue Marceau is a modest street of businesses and bars.

Aux P’tits Anges can be a bit difficult to find the first time around — and reservations are recommended. If I remember rightly, we scoped it out one afternoon and reserved a table during their lunch service.

We sat outside, which isn’t exactly scenic, but it did mean we could enjoy a cigarette between courses. Whilst service is good, the maître d’ serves all the tables, indoors and out, therefore, dining here takes a while.

We had the Menu Diablotin for €37 each. There is a higher priced menu, Menu des Anges, for €55. (More here.)

Starters

We both had the pan seared slices of the lobe of duck foie gras (escalope de foie gras).

We received just the right amount of slices, seared to perfection. On the side was a flavoursome mango chutney, which was an ideal complement.

Mains

We both had king scallops (coquilles St Jacques) seasoned with piment d’Espelette and topped with tiny slices of chorizo. We both enjoyed it a lot. As I noted in my food diary, ‘Beautiful!’

Wine

We had a Côtes de Provence rosé 2013 from Château Les Valentines in La Londe-des-Maures (Var). The château, incidentally, is named after the owners’ children, Valentin and Clémentine. I put the name in bold, as we ordered another of their wines in 2019.

Desserts

I ordered the cheese plate, which had two wedges of Tomme and one of Coulommiers.

My far better half (FBH) had a dreamy dessert which was a chocolate cigar — yes, it looked just like the real thing — with a creamy filling. It was served in a tuile ashtray. FBH still talks about it.

Verdict

We both regretted we had already reserved at other restaurants for our remaining nights. We resolved to eat here twice on our 2019 trip, which we did.

2019 — first visit

We did not make reservations for our first return visit this year.

It was a quiet Tuesday evening, and the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

We opted for the Menu Diablotin again (still €37).

Starters

The chef changed the lobe of foie gras starter.

I preferred his former presentation, but FBH liked this one equally.

The highlight of this was the diced strawberries (with a touch of balsamic vinegar, I would guess) that came as the fruity garnish, rather than chutney, sautéed peaches or figs.

This year, the slices came in a sandwich format. The bread is a charcoal-turmeric marble loaf. The slices were lightly toasted with the foie gras slices in the middle. Obviously, this was not meant to be eaten with one’s hands. Chef probably thought this was a witty presentation.

For me, there was too much bread, especially as the top slice hid the foie gras. Why do that when fewer things are lovelier to look at than seared foie gras?

Initially, I left my bread behind.

Then, as more diners began arriving, the maître d’ understandably was busy taking orders and serving customers. I ended up eating the bread, which I still think is a strange combination of ingredients. However, such flavour combinations in bread have been the trend in certain French restaurants and bakeries in recent years. FBH enjoyed it, so it has its customer appeal.

Mains

We both had the roasted cod (cabillaud) loin topped with tiny slices of chorizo, served with a red pepper and raspberry sauce. It was to die for!

I don’t know how they do their sauce, and the maître d’ said that one could substitute raspberry vinegar for the actual fruit, but it was out of this world. I had to come up with a close facsimile when we got home, because we both wanted it again. What follows is my recipe, which comes pretty darned close to theirs.

Red pepper and raspberry sauce

200g raspberries
pinch of sugar
1 scant tsp balsamic vinegar
3 red bell peppers, finely diced
pinch of salt and pepper
dash of raspberry vinegar

1/ Put the raspberries and sugar in one saucepan and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Remove from the heat to cool, then strain. Keep the juice.

2/ While the raspberries are cooking, put the diced bell pepper into a pan with salt, pepper and the balsamic vinegar. Gently sauté until cooked through — around 15 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool.

3/ Put the raspberry juice and the sautéed bell pepper into a blender or food processor to blitz into a sauce. Strain again, if necessary.

4/ This is a sauce to prepare just before you cook your cod, because the sauce loses the raspberry aspect fairly quickly. If the raspberry taste needs topping up, add a dash of raspberry vinegar to revive it.

5/ Reheat the sauce and serve with the cod, spooning it around the side of the fish rather than on top.

6/ Top with sautéed chorizo slices or bits.

Wine

We had a red, La Punition (The Punishment) 2017, another great wine from Château Les Valentines (see above), priced at €45. The bottle’s tasting notes explain that the grapes — 100% Carignan — were difficult to grow for a number of years. The producers could hardly wait until they had enough Carignan to make this wine, hence ‘the punishment’. Whatever they’ve been doing to make their harvest successful has obviously worked.

Dessert

We both had cheese assortments on this occasion.

The maitre d’ did identify them for us, but I did not note them in my diary. They were very good, however.

2019 — second visit

We could hardly wait to return and, had in fact, booked our table in advance.

We opted for the Menu Diablotin once more, with FBH hoping for a second chocolate cigar!

It was rather windy that evening, so we ate inside for the first time ever.

The chef-owner’s wife and mother-in-law have chosen the little plaques and artwork about happiness. These small additions are rather over the top, but the general atmosphere is one of elegant charm.

Starters

FBH had the lobe of foie gras again, partly for the marble bread.

I opted for breaded gambas (jumbo shrimp), perfectly deep fried and served with courgette tagliatelle. It was delightful.

Mains

We both opted for the duck breast stuffed with foie gras. The sauce was a raspberry coulis, which was perfect.

We ordered seasonal vegetables. These were largely courgettes. The maître d’ explained, ‘Chef loves his courgettes. He puts them with everything.’

The duck was okay, but it was not great. In fact, neither of us would order it again. We expected a juicy, unctuous duck breast with a rim of rendered, crispy skin on top enhanced by an equally unctuous insert of foie gras. The reality was a dry duck breast devoid of all outer skin that even a foie gras centre couldn’t save.

Oh well.

Wine

Another bottle of La Punition (see above)!

Dessert

Amazingly, I did not write down what I had.

But that doesn’t matter, because I will now describe FBH’s dish which we dubbed ‘the dessert of the trip’.

FBH still has fond memories of the chocolate cigar, but the chocolate tart ranks right up there. The experience was further heightened when we saw the two young pastry chefs (both men) go out for a quick ciggie break. They were the same chaps who made the chocolate cigar in 2017.

It was the most elaborate — and tasty — creation.

The filling was a light chocolate mousse topped with a spun red sugar spiral, two tiny chocolate cookie/vanilla ice cream sandwiches and two caramel filled chocolates on the side.

We would have paid any amount of money to take a box of those chocolate caramels back to the hotel. The salted caramel oozed out and was sublime, if not divine.

Additional notes

TripAdvisor has customer reviews.

Conclusion

We will definitely return to Aux P’tits Anges on our next trip.

By then, the menu will have evolved further, including the desserts!

My far better half (FBH) and I first ate at La Potinière in 2001.

It is located in the heart of Cannes, near the main post office and Palais des Festivals at 13 Square Mérimée.

Potinière means ‘gossping place’, by the way.

2001

I was not keeping food diaries at that point, but I vaguely recall having something with artichokes and most certainly had either prawns or Mediterranean sea bass (loup).

Desserts

What we remember most were the desserts.

The association of olive oil producers had put out a few new, cutting edge recipes that year. One was for strawberries in olive oil with basil, ground pepper and black olives.

It sounds disgusting until you taste it.

Strawberries in olive oil

1 punnet strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
4 – 5 shredded basil leaves
3 – 4 twists of black pepper
1 – 2 tsp sugar
6 – 7 pitted black olives, thinly sliced
Dash of balsamic vinegar

Mix everything together 15 minutes beforehand and serve in a parfait glass with a sprig of mint.

As I was sceptical of this combination, I opted for the restaurant’s homemade ice cream. That was when lavender ice cream was all the rage along the French and Italian Rivieras. The owner said he would give me a scoop of lavender and one of pistachio. A Mediterranean combination made in heaven! Sheer bliss.

FBH had the strawberries and raved about them. I tried a spoonful. They were fantastic!

We made this recipe at home several times afterwards. Our guests loved it, too.

2003

Again, I had no food diary, but what we had was excellent.

I don’t think they had the strawberries on the menu anymore, which was somewhat disappointing.

Gossip

What I do remember was a conversation we had with the man we reckoned was the owner, who is no doubt the son of the founding family and father — probably — of the current proprietor. He was in his 50s at the time.

When we had been there in 2001, a chef from London opened his own restaurant next door. I’d read about it in the Evening Standard a few months before we went to Cannes. We didn’t eat there, as the interior was very dark: purple walls.

In 2003, the Englishman’s restaurant was no longer there. We asked the gentleman from La Potinière what happened. He said that he and other restaurateurs attempted to befriend him and welcome him into their little informal club. The Englishman, to his detriment, was not interested.

Our man told us how important it was to be on good terms with other restaurateurs in Cannes. Whilst they are competitors, they are also allies, sometimes friends. He said they can help you source better deals and, if you run short of something, they can supply it on a busy night.

Unfortunately, the Englishman, the man said, thought he could do it all by himself. Eventually, business trickled off and, as he had no restaurateur friends in town, it closed.

Moral of the story: when someone in the know, especially your next door neighbour, extends a professional hand of friendship, accept his kindness.

Subsequent years

We went to La Potinière a few more times afterwards.

I can’t remember when we stopped going. Possibly 2013 or 2015. The menu changed and seemed a bit lacklustre to us. Service, even from our man, was so-so.

In any event, they expanded next door, which was good.

2019

We wanted a restaurant nearby this year, because on the night we went, a new episode of Philippe Etchebest’s Cauchmar en Cuisine (Kitchen Nightmare) was going to air on M6 at 9 p.m. There’s nothing like watching one of your favourite foreign television shows on the night it airs, is there?

So, we opted for La Potinière. Our man was still there in the background, but it seemed as if his daughter (?) was running front of house. She made a point of speaking English to us most of the time, even though we kept responding in French. She was quite friendly, although rather forceful.

They had a new summer apprentice and she taught him how to present wine to the customer, how to open the bottle and then pour a tasting portion. He must have only just turned 18. He was rather nervous, understandably. It was his first day.

Starters

FBH had smoked salmon.

I had deep fried king prawn spring rolls Indonesian style (4 pieces), which were excellent: hot and crispy to the very end.

Mains

FBH had a roast chicken breast, which was competently prepared.

I had fillet of sea bream (daurade royale), which was outstanding.

Wine

We drank a bottle of white Cassis — Bodin 2017 — for €39.

Bill

We each had the €25.50 prix fixe menu. Our bill came to €90 — our least expensive evening out on this trip.

And, yes, we left the restaurant at 8:45 p.m., in plenty of time to be ready for Cauchemar en Cuisine, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Additional notes

The founders’ grandson, Larry, was the head chef for several years and has been managing the restaurant for at least four or five years now. He trained under Jacques Chibois and also attended Alain Ducasse’s cooking school.

The current chef favours lighter, modern, no-frills dishes focussing on a main ingredient, be it fish, meat or aubergine. This is a vegetable-friendly establishment. They also have their own traditional pizza oven.

TripAdvisor has customer reviews for the restaurant.

Conclusion

Would we rush back? No.

Is La Potinière a good place for dining on simple food relatively quickly? Yes.

Still in a Provençal state of mind after this year’s holiday in Cannes, I planned a blow out Bastille Day menu this year.

Starter

We had half a lobe of goose foie gras, cut into thick slices and sautéed quickly over high heat.

Keep the thawed or fresh foie gras in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. That way, it retains its firmness and shape in the pan.

Experts, such as Urban Merchants in the UK, recommend using duck foie gras for sautéeing instead, because goose has a higher iron content. They are correct in saying that goose foie gras does less well under this cooking method, nonetheless, it was unctuous! We had the other half of the lobe today.

As foie gras of any sort requires fruit or chutney on the side, I borrowed an idea from a restaurant in Cannes, Aux P’tits Anges (To the Little Angels).

Instead of using chutney, fig or sauteed peach, they served their seared duck foie gras with a tablespoon or two of finely diced strawberries instead. It is a perfect — and inexpensive — seasonal complement.

I prepared my strawberry garnish for two in a small bowl, mixed together as follows:

9 medium sized strawberries, hulled and finely diced
1 scant tsp balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 pinches of freshly ground pepper

Today’s foie gras is produced humanely. As I have written before, these ducks and geese are naturally conditioned to want food frequently. They are like overweight humans who, over time, turn off their bodies’ natural appetite suppressant in the brain.

Foie gras is healthful, as the French — particularly those in the southwest of the country, the main foie gras producing region — know only too well. There are a lot of healthy elderly people in France who are well into their 80s and 90s.

This 1991 article from the New York Times discusses the health benefits of foie gras and focuses on people in the southwest, many of whom eat it every weekend.

One thing I did notice in France was that most of the restaurant dishes are largely keto. Remember that bread is served on the side, so how much the diner carbs up is up to him! Too many carbs combined with too much fat will cause a health problem, which is what a lot of people do not realise.

Wine

Serve a sweet wine with foie gras, such as Coteaux du Layon or Sauternes. We had Sauternes this year.

Main

We had gambas — large prawns — for our main course. Ours were the largest, which come 8 to 10 to the kilo.

Earlier in the day, I deveined them and made a delicious stock from the shells and heads, which I used for a sauce (see below).

I put the prawns in an olive oil based fresh herb, crushed garlic and seasoning mixture to marinate for a few hours, then, refrigerated. Once I brought them out of the fridge to room temperature for 30-60 minutes (depending on outdoor weather), I sautéed them for a few minutes each side over medium high heat.

Prawn sauce recipe:

2 tbsp corn flour
2/3 cup prawn stock
3 to 4 cloves crushed garlic
Seasonings — salt, pepper, cayenne, Old Bay
2 tbsp Noilly Prat or other white vermouth
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp butter

1/ Make a slurry with the corn flour and prawn stock and place in a saucepan over medium heat.

2/ When the sauce thickens after a couple of minutes, add the crushed garlic and add seasonings according to taste.

3/ Add the vermouth and stir.

4/ Add the cream and stir.

5/ When finished, add the butter and stir for a glossy appearance.

6/ Take off the heat. Reheat once ready to serve.

Some people can handle starch and protein better than others. Those people get a hefty portion of chips. Others can have a timbale of seasoned rice on the side.

Serve with a green vegetable of choice.

Wine

As it was Bastille Day, we opted for champagne!

Other accompaniments

We watched the Tour de France — what else on July 14?

With St Patrick’s Day on Friday in 2017, a few readers have been eyeing my homemade brisket recipe from 2012:

Brisket and salt — corned — beef dos and don’ts

That post explains what to do. Anyone doing this from scratch will need to start on March 15. The prep work — brining and the rub — requires 48 hours.

Brisket is cheap. However, the cost of low-and-slow cooking can outweigh the savings on the meat.

Therefore, doing this yourself, as appetising as it looks on television food shows, might turn out to be more expensive and labour intensive than anticipated.

It is better to buy prepared salt — corned — beef from a supermarket or butcher.

Best wishes for a happy St Patrick’s Day!

 

BBC logoIf you’re a home cook who peruses the BBC food site for recipes, it’s time to print copies now before it closes.

On May 17, The Guardian reported that recipes and food articles are already being ‘archived’ and eventually will no longer be visible.

The site has 11,000 recipes, some of which have been available for 16 years. After these food pages are ‘mothballed’, one of the only ways to see them will be via the Wayback Machine using this link, which a Guardian reader helpfully shared:

https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://Www.bbc.co.uk/food

Of course, you won’t be able to search on it and will have to remember approximately when you saw the recipe first appear.

Recipes from current television programmes will be on the BBC site for 30 days after they are broadcast.

The move comes after George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the BBC was being ‘imperial in its ambitions’ by having so much online content. Articles on travel destinations and local news output are also likely to disappear or be scaled back in the coming months.

Other BBC services, channels and coverage could be consolidated or even ended as the broadcaster attempts to save money.

It is odd, though, that an online recipe collection — and the travel archive — can’t be saved. The pages are static. The British people paid for that via their television licence.

Guardian foodies are dismayed, to say the least. As I write at noontime on Tuesday — 12 hours after the article was published — there are already 1,859 comments!

However, there might be a glimmer of hope: a change.org petition to save the recipe site already has over 41,500 signatures of the 50,000 needed for consideration.

On Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, Catholics and Protestants look forward to celebrating our Lord’s resurrection and preparing a feast for family and friends.

You might find my past posts about Holy Saturday helpful in understanding its significance:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Last week, I summarised the first part of English food journalist Mary Berry’s look at Easter food traditions in various countries and denominations, encompassing those in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland.

The second, concluding part of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 aired this week. Berry’s enthusiasm for Easter as both a religious and gastronomic feast matches mine, which is part of what made the programme so enjoyable.

Christians make special breads at this time of year to recall Jesus as the Bread of Life. Lamb is also popular, as He is the Lamb of God, the once perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd John Sentamu explained, ‘Easter is the Passover of the Lord’.

Greece – tsoureki

Berry visited St Sophia’s Cathedral in London, a breathtakingly beautiful Greek Orthodox church.

Fr Savas, the priest who gave her a tour of the cathedral, said that 1,000 faithful normally attend Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday. Everyone takes a lit candle home and blesses their home with the light of the Resurrection.

Fr Savas’s cousin Katarina made the traditional Easter bread — tsoureki — for Berry. It is a plaited (braided) bread with a red coloured hard boiled egg at the top. The three plaits symbolise the Holy Trinity. The egg symbolises Jesus Christ, and the red colour represents His blood that He shed for our redemption.

Tsoureki dough is an enriched one, resembling a brioche. It is flavoured with two spices: one, mastiha, which comes from tree resin and the other, mahlepi, from ground cherry stones which gives it an almond flavour.

Before baking, the tsoureki is glazed with egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. My Little Expat Kitchen has a recipe that looks like the one Katarina used.

The Netherlands – Easter Men

With the help of her grandchildren, Berry showed us the Dutch Easter Men recipe that she makes every year.

She saw them many years ago on a trip to Holland around Easter and was intrigued.

Berry likes the simplicity of the one-rise bread dough used to make this charming little bread of a man holding an egg — the risen Christ — in his arms.

Once the dough is risen, Berry portions it out and cuts into each one to shape the head, the arms and the legs. She secures a raw egg in the folded arms and decorates the heads with raisins or blackcurrants for simple facial features. She glazes the men with egg wash and bakes them for 25 minutes. The egg cooks as the bread bakes.

This is a simple, straightforward recipe that children will enjoy. They can help shape the limbs, once cut, and decorate the faces.

The Philippines – lechon

Berry visitied a Catholic Filipina, May, who made her a roast pork dish called lechon, an Easter staple in the Philippines.

May explained that, traditionally, lechon is a whole hog roast. Her father used to roast several hogs at Easter when she was growing up in the Philippines. Friends, neighbours and family would then join in for a massive Easter feast.

For home cooks, May recommends pork belly. She brined one with thyme, crushed lemongrass and bay leaves. After several hours, she removed the pork belly from the brine and patted it completely dry, enabling it to crisp when baking.

May laid it out flat, skin side down, and, in the centre, placed a few stems of crushed lemongrass, several spring onions cut lengthwise in half and added a lot of crushed garlic on top before seasoning well with salt and pepper. She then rolled the pork belly tightly and tied it well with butcher’s string.

Once roasted, the lechon had a glossy, dark outer skin. Inside, the meat was moist and tender. The belly fat had cooked out, with some going into the meat. As this recipe has no crackling — the outer skin is too hard to eat — it might be suitable for cooks who prefer less fatty, yet succulent, pork.

May explained that the Spanish introduced lechon to the Philippines centuries ago.

The dish is also popular in Cuba.

England – roast lamb

Berry went to York to watch the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu — a political prisoner from Idi Amin’s Uganda who moved to England 42 years ago — make her own recipe for roast lamb.

Sentamu and his wife Elizabeth both talked about how important Easter was for their large families in Africa. Sentamu’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook. His father insisted not only on roast lamb on Easter but also curried goat and curried chicken.

He and Elizabeth have been using Berry’s lamb recipe ever since they saw it on television years ago. Berry confessed that she’d long forgotten about it, but it looks very tasty, especially with the touches the Sentamus have added over the years.

The Archbishop cut the main bone out of the leg of lamb. He took several thin slices of deli ham, spread a herb (predominantly rosemary leaves) and garlic mix over each slice and layered them neatly one on top of the other. He rolled the layered ham neatly and inserted it into the middle of the lamb.

He layered his roasting tray generously with tarragon and placed the lamb on top. Around it he put several onion halves. He took a bottle of white wine and poured it until it just covered the onions.

Once the roast was resting, he strained the juices from the roasting pan and made a sumptuous gravy. My mouth was watering. The Sentamu family must surely look forward to lunch on Easter!

Italy – Easter dove bread

Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian bread made in a dove mould, although it can be made in a round one.

The dove symbolises Christ, the Prince of Peace.

To see it made, Berry visited Maria, who cooks for the priests and visiting clergy at St Peter’s Italian Church in London’s Little Italy.

The dough is enriched, as for a brioche, and contains currants and orange peel. It requires a 12-hour rise.

Maria placed the dough into a dove-shaped mould and topped it with whole almonds and crushed sugar. This recipe, which includes a picture, resembles Maria’s. The sugar bakes into the top of the bread leaving an appetising topping.

I wished I’d been with the two very happy priests when she served it to them. They tucked in with gusto.

Easter feast

Nearly all of the show’s participants and their families gathered at Berry’s parish church in the Home Counties not far from London for a sumptuous Easter feast.

They brought their special dishes and Berry brought hers. If you can see the hour-long episode, you’ll agree with me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable occasion. I would love to have been there.

Everyone got along famously and tried to learn each other’s language. It was a beautiful sight as many promised to keep in touch with each other.

I hope that everyone’s Easter feast is as special as Mary Berry’s.

As we eat, may we remember the risen Christ and give thanks for His resurrection from the dead and His promise to us of life everlasting.

On Monday, English home cook, author and former food journalist Mary Berry — star of The Great British Bake-Off and her own television shows (BBC) — introduced the British public to the traditions behind Good Friday and Easter foods.

The first of two episodes of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 saw her explore traditions in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland. I highly recommend it. Below is a synopsis of the first programme with additional information from other sources.

Berry, an Anglican, told us that she is a regular churchgoer. She said she goes to Sunday services because ‘it is important to give thanks’. Easter is her favourite religious feast. (Finally, there’s someone who loves Easter as much as I do.)

Easter is the Church’s greatest feast. It has always been celebrated, from the earliest days after Christ’s death and resurrection. Christmas celebrations did not come about until much later.

Hot cross buns

Berry went to St Albans Cathedral to find out more about hot cross buns.

The cathedral’s historian explained that, in England, the precursor of this bun was the Alban bun. In 1361, Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a monk at St Albans Abbey, made highly spiced buns which the monks gave to the poor who appeared at the refectory door on Good Friday. The historian added that Brother Thomas was likely making peace with the locals who resented the Church. Monasteries at that time held an enormous amount of power.

St Albans Cathedral website tells us that their hot cross buns are still made locally — at Redbournbury Mill, which the abbey once owned. Anyone interested can find them the old fashioned way, by going to the Abbot’s Kitchen. They are available throughout Lent to Easter Monday.

The historian gave an Alban bun to Berry, who said it was much spicier than conventional hot cross buns. There is also no pastry or paste cross on the Alban bun, rather one which is formed with a knife before baking.

Although Berry and the historian did not discuss the significance of the bun’s ingredients, the spices symbolise those used to embalm Jesus after His crucifixion. I cannot find anything about the meaning of the dried fruit in them, but years ago, I read that it represents the gentle character of Jesus. I have also read that the fruit pieces suggest the drops of blood He shed for us.

For centuries, people ate hot cross buns only on Good Friday in contemplation of the Crucifixion. These days, sadly, they are available nearly all year round.

During the Reformation, England’s Protestants — and, later, Puritans — condemned the eating of hot cross buns as Catholic superstition. During Elizabethan times, one could only purchase them in London on Good Friday, Christmas or for burials.

Historians point out that fruit breads with a cross existed in ancient Greece. The cross made it easier to divide the bread into four pieces.

A number of superstitions about hot cross buns abound. As for them not going stale, I can assure you that they must be eaten within 12 to 18 hours. They get hard as a rock after that. And, yes, they also go mouldy.

Mary Berry makes hot cross buns for her family during Lent. The BBC has made her recipe available.

Jamaican bun

Berry spent time with Bettina, who is originally from Jamaica and belongs to a Baptist church in Nottingham.

Bettina makes Jamaican buns for the ladies at her church during Lent. They are actually large cakes, served in thin slices, often with Jamaican cheese. The buns are also very dark, because they have stout in them. This recipe looks like the one Bettina uses.

Escoveitch fish

Bettina also made a standard Good Friday dish of escoveitch (ceviche) fish for Berry to try. After marinating in a ceviche manner, Bettina pan fried the fish, basting it regularly. It looked delicious.

She served it with peppers, chocho and chilis. This recipe is like Bettina’s.

Bettina explained that marinating fish in vinegar dates back to the Moors, who introduced it to Spain. The Spanish, in turn, took the technique with them to the New World.

Russian devilled eggs and pascha

Berry met with a Russian Orthodox home cook and a priest, who explained how their Church observes Lent.

Father Peter explained that church members continue to follow the centuries-old vegetarian Lent, which starts two weeks earlier than the Catholic and Protestant one. They do not consume any food at all on Good Friday. Lenten fasting does not end until the Easter Vigil service ends, which is sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. Afterwards, everyone — including children — enjoys a feast.

Holy Thursday, which the Orthodox call ‘Clean Thursday’, is a busy, yet contemplative day, Father Peter said. It is the traditional spring cleaning day and it is also when the Easter cake, pascha, is made. Pascha is the word for Easter.

Pascha is a cheesecake with dried fruit. It is put into a pyramid mould with a Russian Orthodox cross on one side and ‘XB’ (‘Christ is risen’) on the other.

Another Russian Easter favourite is the devilled egg. A home cook made this for Berry. It involves peeled hard boiled eggs which are left to steep in beet juice. The programme did not mention this, but the red juice symbolises Christ’s blood. After several hours, the eggs are cut in half, the yolks devilled and piped back into the egg white centres. Caviar is a favourite topping.

Babka

Berry went to meet a Polish family in Cambridgeshire. They explained the importance of getting their Easter food blessed at church on Holy Saturday. I wrote about that in 2010.

In addition to coloured eggs, onto which the children were busy etching designs, olives are also an important Easter food for the Poles, probably because of their egg-like shape. Both symbolise life.

The husband made Berry a babka, the traditional Easter cake, which takes three days to make properly. Most of that time involves the rise of the enriched dough, similar to a brioche. He used a babka mould, similar to a kugelhopf mould, and added a chocolate insert. You could use a bundt cake mould.

Those who do not care for chocolate can add dried fruit instead.

A number of babka recipes exist, however, I have not been able to find the one this man used, which is the traditional one. He used his mother’s and, watching him make it, that’s definitely the original. Beware of ‘quick’ or ‘easy’ babka recipes. If anyone can point to one, please share the recipe or a link by commenting below. Many thanks!

Incidentally, he explained that ‘babka’ is also a complimentary word for a woman and a gracious name for a grandmother.

I’ll watch next week’s show and let you know what else Mary Berry discovers in the world of Easter food traditions.

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