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On October 28, 2022, the Times featured an article on food prices from that day in 1922: ‘Weekend food: a glut of turbot’.

I would love to experience a glut of turbot, the king of fish — and my favourite.

I was amazed to read that, already, the UK was importing food from other countries and continents. Even then they had Danish bacon. I wonder if it was as watery then as it is now.

Note that French poultry had returned for the first time since the First World War (emphases mine):

Perhaps the principal points of interest in the food market this weekend are the glut of turbot, which is selling at 9d a lb for the whole fish, and the arrival of the first French poulardes to reach these shores since 1914. West End chefs welcome the poularde’s arrival on account of the bird’s delicacy and tenderness. The price, however, is high, 2s 6d to 2s 8d a lb, and the birds weigh about 4lb each.

I will get to poulardes below.

Moving on to cheap Danish bacon:

Bacon may presently rise a little, as the stocks of cheap Danish bacon are expected to be exhausted in a week or two.

We discover more about the provenance of some butter and eggs, which is rather surprising:

Butter is cheap, and there is a certain amount of Australian butter selling at 1s 10d a lb. Eggs are going to be dearer, and the fivepenny and sixpenny egg may be expected at about Christmas. At present there is a large quantity of eggs coming from South Africa, but the “day old” new laid egg is almost impossible to obtain.

I remember my late grandmother asking our butcher in the United States for day old eggs.

I can’t imagine shipping butter from Australia to the United Kingdom. One wonders how often the ice blocks would have to be replaced on the ship. It would not have been possible to fly long distances at that time. Air cargo didn’t really take off, so to speak, until after the Second World War.

In 1922, Britain was already importing fruit from the United States:

Californian apples are also on sale at 8d a lb, or 2s, 2s 6d, and 3s a dozen.

As for domestic meats, we discover that chicken was half the price of its French counterpart. I was surprised to read that turkey was already available, which isn’t the case now when whole birds go on sale from mid-November, if not the beginning of December. Also, beef was pricey that year; times have not changed. By contrast, lamb was a bargain:

The price of the ordinary English chicken is still about 1s 5d a lb. Rabbits were selling rapidly all the week at 1s 8d each. Pheasants are still dear from 7s 6d to 8s 6d, but should be cheaper soon. Turkeys, at 2s a lb, have been in good demand.

English and Scotch meat remains high in price, principally because there is not a great quantity on the market. As feeding stuffs are more plentiful, not so many animals are being killed. Chilled beef is cheaper; 10 1/2d a lb is being asked for sirloins and wing ribs. Canterbury lamb is 1s 5d a lb for legs and 1s 4d for shoulders.

Now on to poularde, which comes from Bresse and is expensive, even in France.

Today, poultry from Bresse has a protected food name specific to that area, with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

In France, poultry from Bresse originally had an AOC, Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée, now replaced by the EU’s PDO.

La Radio du Goût (Taste Radio) tells us that, in 1957, President René Coty personally conferred the AOC on Bresse poultry.

Breeding of these birds began in the 17th century. Although their meat is unsurpassed, their colour has also held a special place in France’s heart: red comb, white plumage and blue feet.

The reason they received an AOC and, later, a PDO is because of the unique way they are reared in their specific location.

The AOC definition reads as follows:

The specificity of an AOC product is determined by the combination of a physical and biological environment with established production techniques transmitted within a human community that, together, give the product its distinctive qualities. These crucial technical and geographic factors are set forth in standards for each product, including wines, cheeses and meats. Other countries and the European Union have similar labeling systems. The European Union‘s protected designation of origin (PDO) system has now largely replaced France’s AOC designations for all products except wine

Can anyone say terroir?

The AOP certification of authenticity is granted to certain geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products by the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO). The certification system is designed to protect distinctive and traditional regional products, based on the upon the concept of terroir. Terroir refers to a given geographical area having specific environmental and human features that affect an agricultural product’s key characteristics. These factors are meant to capture unique environmental features (e.g. type of soil, topology of the production environment, local climate) and farming and processing practices (e.g. the steps taken and inputs used in producing a specific type of cheese). Thus, it includes the traditional savoir-faire that goes into the production of AOC products. Taken together, these give the product its distinctive qualities.[1]

La Radio du Goût says that, although Bresse is a small area in eastern France, it has three borders: Burgundy, Franche-Comté and Rhône-Alpes.

The poultry there are free to roam, feeding not only on earthworms, insects and larvae but also on wheat and corn specific to that area.

In the weeks approaching their going to market, the Bresse chickens and capons are put in roomy, airy wooden cages where they are pampered to the point where they look forward to food and water as there is nothing else to do. Although the birds are not force fed, the more frequent feeds produce a tender and succulent meat. The finished chickens weigh around 5 lb.

The cooking method is a gentle one. La Radio du Goût says that birds from Bresse are best done in a Le Creuset pot (enameled) over very low heat with no additional butter or fat. They will render enough fat and juices as they gently brown. They require frequent turning over in the initial stage. Season with salt and pepper. The total cooking time is three hours. Although the article doesn’t say, presumably one puts a lid on the pot after the meat is golden brown, checking on it every so often to turn it over.

When the meat is done and resting, one can sauté potatoes in the fatty juices. The recipe recommends a sauce of creamed mushrooms — morels, if one can find them — to accompany the poultry.

Another recipe comes from the legendary Bresse cook Elisa Blanc — la Mère Blanc — who was probably the first woman to obtain two Michelin stars in the 20th century.

Her grandson Georges, now an older man, took over her inn in Vonnas — L’Auberge de Vonnas — itself in the Bresse area, and owns most of that village complete with shops and a spa, if I’m not mistaken. He is richer than Croesus.

He also earned a third Michelin star.

Her recipe is for Bresse chicken in cream sauce.

She jointed her chicken into eight pieces and cooked it in a large, shallow pan with Bresse butter. She browned the pieces first in butter, then added a bit more butter, an onion studded with cloves, one garlic clove, a bay leaf, thyme sprigs and a small amount of water before putting a lid on the pan. She cooked the chicken over medium heat for 30 minutes, checking on it from time to time.

While the meat rested, she took a pot of Bresse cream, poured it into a bowl and whisked two egg yolks into it to make an emulsion. She poured the cream-egg combination into the pan in which she cooked the chicken and stirred the sauce over low heat until the eggs were emulsified. The sauce would have been glossy and unctuous, with body. She then strained it to remove any little egg lumps (ideally, there would have been very few), then poured it over the chicken to serve.

Many French families treat themselves to Bresse poultry before Christmas. La Radio du Goût suggests singing Christmas carols while the bird is cooking.

The festival called Les Glorieuses de Bresse runs for five days in mid-December in Bourg-en Bresse, Montrevel-en-Bresse, Louhans, et Pont-de-Vaux.

I do wonder if I could tell the difference between a Bresse chicken and the Tesco Finest from Northern Ireland that I buy. Hmm.

Nonetheless, the recipes should work for any kind of poultry, although some fat would need to be added for browning.

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How long did it take for me to get the perfect crackling on a loin of pork?

Thirty-one years.

I tried everything.

The secret to excellent crackling follows, but let us also look at the basics of buying a pork loin rib for roasting.

This is probably more pertinent to readers living in the UK and possibly a few Commonwealth countries than elsewhere. I’d never encountered crackling until I moved here.

You will need two roasting tins, coarse salt and sturdy kitchen scissors.

At the butcher’s

Ask your butcher for a loin of pork that has a good rim of fat on it.

He will produce a large rib from which he will cut your roasting joint. He will also ask how many ribs you would like.

A seven-rib joint will serve 14-16 people comfortably. We like leftovers, so we had roast dinner for four nights running and sandwiches on two other nights. A roast pork sandwich with butter and mayonnaise is Proustian to me. It also works well with pickle.

In 2022, a seven-rib joint costs between £34 and £36.

Ask the butcher to chine the joint (for easier carving) and to score the skin.

Crackling — and roast — preparation

At home, an hour or two before cooking anything, boil a large pan or roasting tin of water for the crackling. Either vessel should be half full of water.

Meanwhile, remove the crackling portion by carefully cutting the skin with as thick a layer of fat as you can from the roasting joint. Set it aside on a board or a plate.

Make sure you leave a thin bit of fat covering the meat on the joint. Season the joint well with salt and pepper and set it aside on a cutting board or platter.

When the pan or roasting tin of water is up to a rapid boil, carefully drop the skin into it and cook it for five to ten minutes. Reverse the skin and cook on the other side — the fatty one — for five minutes.

I learned about the boiling technique on a television show from a French chef who said that his mother always prepared crackling that way. Gordon Ramsay uses the same method.

It works.

Remove the crackling portion from the boiling water and place it on a plate. When it has cooled, carefully pat it dry with kitchen towel and put it on a dry plate. Refrigerate it for one to two hours.

Roasting the crackling

The chilled crackling should go into the oven 20 minutes before the meat. It will take about two to two-and-a-quarter hours to roast.

Method:

1/ Preheat the oven to 200°C (395°F).

2/ You will need a smaller roasting tin and coarse salt, which is a must.

3/ Rub coarse salt all over both sides of the crackling, including between the crevices of the skin. Make sure you adhere to good hand and food hygiene as you don’t want to contaminate your salt container with raw pork bacteria.

4/ Place the crackling in the roasting tin and put it on the top shelf of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes.

5/ When you are ready to roast the meat (see below), move the crackling to the lower shelf and reduce the heat to 180°C (350°F).

6/ After an hour, remove the crackling, pour any excess fat into a mixing jug and return the crackling to the lower shelf to continue roasting.

7/ After another hour, remove the crackling tray from the oven and strain the remaining excess fat into the jug. (Once the fat has cooled, pour it into a clean jar with a lid, refrigerate and use for pan frying fish or roasting it in the oven — a great substitute for deep frying.)

8/ After two hours, your crackling is done if you can cut it easily with kitchen scissors. If it does not cut easily, return it to the lower shelf for another 15 to 20 minutes.

9/ When the crackling is done, remove the pan from the oven and set it on a board to cool. Once cooled, cut it into large strips with kitchen scissors.

Roasting and carving the meat

Roasting the meat is straightforward.

Method:

1/ Put the seasoned joint of seven ribs (see above) on the top shelf of a 180°C (350°F) oven for one hour and 45 minutes.

2/ When done, remove the roast to a carving tray and let it cool for 30 to 45 minutes.

3/ When it has sufficiently cooled, begin carving the meat. Carefully remove the rib bones and place them in a large saucepan so that you can make stock. Fill the saucepan with water and place on the stovetop on medium heat for two hours. The stock should reduce by half. Season the stock with salt and pepper. Leave to cool for a few hours before decanting and refrigerating for later use. (I use large mayonnaise jars or litre-sized soft drinks containers. They do need lids or bottletops.)

4/ When you are left with just the meat, carve it into thin slices. These photos show what the slices should look like.

Sauce

While the meat is cooling, make a sauce, or gravy, to accompany the meat. I use a combination of Port and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of any meat or vegetable stock I’ve made previously.

This takes about 20 minutes.

Method:

1/ Heat the empty roasting tin on the stovetop, placing 50g (2oz) of butter and 50g (2oz) of flour in it to cook until bubbly. This is the beginning of a roux.

2/ Once the butter and flour are bubbly, have a whisk ready. Add a good splash of Port and whisk until the roux and the wine come together in a thick mass.

3/ Slowly add meat or vegetable stock a little at a time, whisking between each addition until smooth. The sauce will gradually get thinner until it resembles jus, a lightly-textured gravy.

4/ When the sauce is ready, add the meat to the sauce in the pan and gently warm it through over low heat. Increase the heat to medium or medium-high two or three minutes before serving so that everything is hot.

Serving

Place the meat covered in sauce with a piece of crackling on the side of the plate.

Wrap any leftover crackling in aluminium foil and refrigerate it. Reheat it on the foil the next day at 180°C (350°F) for five minutes.

I have prepared crackling this way for a year, and it is the best yet.

In 1980s Britain, Marco Pierre White (MPW) was the original enfant terrible of young chefs.

He went on to win not only Michelin stars but also start the careers of the youngsters working in his kitchen at Harveys in Wandsworth Common, London.

Gordon Ramsay, Stephen Terry and Phil Howard all worked for MPW at the same time, more about which below.

However, more important is the bad rap that liver gets.

This is because most liver is cut into thin, shoe sole slices and is overcooked.

Whenever someone says to me, ‘Liver? Yuck!’, I tell them they’d love it if they ate it my way: thick with a somewhat crusty exterior and rare on the inside. A butcher will gladly cut liver to order.

A masterclass in cooking liver

Fortunately, Marco Pierre White likes it the same way and demonstrates how to cook liver properly in this video, which is around seven and a half minutes long. The liver recipe at the beginning only takes a couple of minutes to watch:

An Italian responding to the video says that this is (emphases mine below):

Fegato alla veneziana = Venetian liver. The mother of Marco grew up in Venice.

As is true of the most authentic Italian cuisine, this dish has three ingredients. Marco prepares sautéed liver, onions and adds a small amount of vinegar for the sauce.

The video begins with the sautéed onions on a plate with the vinegar added, making a sauce of sorts.

Now on to the liver:

1/ Marco salts the liver by hand from a great height, then grinds pepper on it the same way. This is because seasonings disperse better on food when applied from shoulder height.

2/ Marco dusts the thick slice of liver with flour, then shakes off the excess. He doesn’t say so, but you should season the flour with salt before dredging anything in it, even if you’ve already seasoned the main ingredient. Otherwise, what ever you cook in it will taste of just flour: terrible.

3/ He puts the liver in a preheated pan that has sizzling oil in it, just covering the bottom.

4/ When the liver has ‘caramelised nicely’ on the bottom, flip it over and cook until it is ‘nicely golden brown’. So, one side should be caramelised and the other golden brown.

5/ The finished product should be pink inside. Marco explains that this has to do with the temperature of the pan. If the pan is too hot, the flour on the outside of the liver will be scorched. If the pan is too cool, the liver goes soggy. Once you think it is cooked enough, lightly touch the top of the liver. If it springs back, it’s rare. The more the surface of the liver solidifies, the more well done it is, which is not what one wants.

If you don’t want to touch the liver, Marco says to watch for the blood to come to the top, at which point it is done.

6/ Remove the liver from the pan, let any excess fat drip off of it and put on top of the plated onions and vinegar sauce.

Because the video is old, the cut liver doesn’t look that pink. However, when Marco feeds one of his sous chefs a little bit from the top of a long knife, the sous chef says it’s great:

It’s the business.

Liver is an important protein:

Liver is actually one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat and therefore one of the healthiest food choices you can make. If you get and buy local or fresh sources you can it eat it raw and it’s even better for you that way. We humans would eat the liver raw right after a kill while hunting. I prefer to process it and bring it home.

Done properly, liver should be pink in the middle:

… yes, the liver should be still pink when plated otherwise the texture will be too tough!

A viewer made Marco’s Venetian liver and enjoyed it:

I have just prepared and eaten MPW’s onion liver. Yummy.

These days, Marco is the face of Knorr’s seasoning cubes:

Check out his section on the Knorr website. Excellent cooking ideas for the home cook to try out. He even managed to improve on my own Spaghetti bolognaise recipe, and I didn’t think that was possible!

The video comes from a late 1980s show on Channel 4, which had just started broadcasting. Channel 4 has always been known for its innovation in programming.

YouTube has more episodes, but there aren’t many, because MPW stopped filming halfway through the series. Another commenter says:

They only managed to film 3 episodes before Marco told them to get the f…k out of his kitchen, apparently it was supposed to be a 6 episode deal with the newly launched Channel 4. Sorry about that.

The video is so nostalgic. There’s smoking indoors! We even see the little square in the upper right hand corner of the screen, signalling that a commercial break was coming up:

Ahhhh the box with the diagonal lines in the right hand corner of the screen that told you the adverts were coming up took me back.

After Marco gives the sous chef a taste of the liver, they discuss their mentor, Albert Roux:

Albert Roux mentored Marco plus many of his crew at La Gavroche in the 80’s.

Apparently Marco worked at a butchers shop and a couple other little enterprises Albert ran as well.

This was the dialogue:

Chef: Albert Roux is my mentor.

Marco: OUR MENTOR.

In the 1980s, Marco Pierre White was known for his pre-Raphaelite looks, especially his hair. He looked like an angel but ran his kitchen like a demon:

Marco is a frightening man in the kitchen. Honestly doesn’t even compare to how Gordon treats his staff, this guy was just plain scary.

Gordon Ramsay wrote about his time with Marco:

Oh, believe me, Marco yelled at everyone in that kitchen from the chefs to the waiters, read one of Gordon’s books and he’ll tell you no one was safe.

Today, somewhat grizzled, MPW owns several branded restaurant enterprises that are franchise operations.

Harveys

Harveys opened in 1987. It was a small restaurant in South London. MPW co-owned it with another restaurateur, Nigel Platts-Martin.

It attracted celebrities and, despite its size, was a bit of a status symbol. No doubt the French maître d’ and French waiters helped.

MPW hired young male sous chefs and commis who, somehow, managed to dance around each other in a demanding kitchen environment:

I can’t believe there are not more fights … Look how they are all crammed in there running around so close and for 12 hours a day.

In the video, he tells the interviewer what he wants from his staff:

Interviewer: “What it is it you want out of them?”

Marco: “I want loyalty, I want finesse out of the them.”

There was only ever one woman in MPW’s brigade, and she did not appear until the late 1980s or early 1990s:

Chef Gigi Mon Ami worked with Gordon Ramsay when he was Sous Chef at Marco Pierre White’s Michelin rated “Harvey’s” restaurant in Wandsworth Common, U.K. Gigi wrote about it in Moon On A Platter, but she also taught Culinary Fine Dining @ JobCorps- and said Gordon actually was very nice to her; kind of looked after her in Marco’s kitchen cuz he had hired her as a joke; she was the only girl in the kitchen, late 80’s. Ever since then, kind of a soft spot for Ramsay – that’s the way European kitchens were in the 80’s and into the 90’s before everything was PC.

Chef Gigi Mon Ami from San Francisco even wrote a book about it, Moon On A Platter. She travelled the world and was often the only woman in the kitchens in which she cooked.

The restaurant closed in 1993 with two Michelin stars awarded to MPW, who said that he wanted a third star and that, in order to win it, he would have to work in larger premises.

The young men, Marco included, did not cover their longish hair. All of them look like budding pop stars, including Gordon Ramsay:

Ramsay has looked exactly the same since 1987…except he doesn’t still have that Flock of Seagulls haircut.

One commenter on the video above wondered how Marco could have earned his Michelin stars with all those uncovered heads:

I mean the amount of hair the customers must have found in the food …

Marco had a penchant for giving his staff and customers a taste of his food. AA Gill, referred to below, was one of our great — and young — food critics at the time:

I love it when he feeds his cook the liver [and] onions with the knife… apparently this was something he loved to do. I remember reading AA Gill; he wrote that Marco hand fed something to the girl who was his guest at the time. Kinda cute, considering how much of a culinary behemoth he is. For me it says that he really, really does care about food and feeding people and creating gastronomic happiness at the highest level. Awesome.

Gordon Ramsay

Many of the comments on the video concern Gordon Ramsay who graces our television screens around the world, moreso than his mentor Marco.

Marco Pierre White is the only chef who ever made Gordon Ramsay cry. Unfortunately, this is not on video, but, allegedly, a spokesperson for Ramsay says that it’s true.

Commenters argued over who is the better chef.

Some say that Gordon merely copied Marco:

Ramsay copied so much from him, from his plates, recipes (scallops with curry powder, tagliatelles, etc) and embellishes so much. Marco is so much more authentic.

Several people pointed out that Gordon also copied Marco’s gestures but that Marco’s delivery of criticism was more constructive:

Notice, Marco says “come here” with a gesture only and then teaches the person something when they get there, whereas Gordon screams “come here” to the person, then insults them when they get there. Marco attacks the mistake, Gordon attacks the person. I know who’s the scarier of the two. And the better chef.

Someone else agreed:

At around 7:20 you can see Gordon blink his eyes like he is crying, there was another video at the end of which Marco says to Gordon, “You know, you cry every night”. In a Boiling Point episode, Gordon tells a young cook that he is nothing but a big baby cause Gordon caught him crying. Hell, when Gordon was his age he was crying his eyes out every night.

Another says that Marco is better:

Marco is the only chef in history to get 3 stars AND 5 spoons and forks in the Michelin Guide for his restaurant The Oak Room. That is total excellence. The great thing about it, is that he was doing a lot of the cooking when he achieved that honor. Gordon has 12 stars, most of which are not because of his cooking, but the cooking of others. Those stars belong to those chefs that work under his brand, not to him.

Anyone expecting the young Ramsay to speak will be disappointed:

Thumbs up if that’s the quietest you’ve ever seen Ramsay in the kitchen, haha.

And is it true that when he left he stole the Harveys reservations book?

Ramsey recently confesses he was so jealous of Marco that he went in Harvey’s and stole the booking book.

Stephen Terry

I didn’t even recognise Stephen Terry in the video. He returned to Wales to open his own restaurant:

Wow, look how young Stephen Terry is…….. He has the Hardwick Restaurant in Raglan near me 🙂

On a break, the interviewer asks him how he feels when Marco bawls him out. Terry shrugs and says:

It’s for a reason. It’s never not for a reason, the reason being that you’ve done something wrong or you’ve done something you shouldn’t have done … You’re learning all the time.

Back in the kitchen, Marco criticises Terry for the presentation of one the plates:

“You wanna do things like that, go to a florist!”

The love for a professional kitchen

Although a professional kitchen looks like a living hell, young men in particular still aspire to becoming professional chefs:

Yo, for real, passion is the only thing that drives you working in a kitchen, you face long hours, so much stress, burns, cuts and running, it’s physically and mentally draining for any person, but I love it. The people you work with, it’s like a family and it’s full of weird people hahaha but we’re always for each other and we always do our best. Sometimes Chefs can be tough, but even the tougher [ones] reward the staff and congratulate them for everything. It’s actually a beautiful job, but it’s tough, really tough.

Another commenter agreed on passion being an essential ingredient to a successful cooking career:

I love food. I love to eat it, i love to touch it, I love to change it, the way it sounds in the pan, the happiness it gives when it’s served, to improve my techniques and to magnify the ingredients. It’s all about passion really. And it should be, otherwise no one could do it.

Anthony Bourdain put it best when he wrote about the importance of cameraderie in the professional kitchen, a dangerous place:

The ability to ‘work well with others’ is a must. If you’re a sauté man, your grill man is your dance partner, and chances are, you’re spending the majority of your time working in a hot, uncomfortably confined, submarine-like space with him. You’re both working around open flame, boiling liquids with plenty of blunt objects at close hand-and you both carry knives, lots of knives. So you had better get along. It will not do to have two heavily armed cooks duking it out behind the line over some perceived insult when there are vats of boiling grease and razor-sharp cutlery all around.

I will post at least one more Marco Pierre White video.

For now, though, I hope that you try his Venetian liver recipe. It’s a keeper.

Lately, I have been reading Jay Rayner‘s restaurant reviews in The Guardian.

He writes the way he speaks, which make them all the more enjoyable.

During lockdown in the first few months of 2021, he looked back at classic British cookbooks and chefs who changed the world of food in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s.

His last lockdown column on April 11, 2021 was about the family recipe collection, whether it be a box of clippings, a notebook or a scrapbook.

‘The old scrapbook recipe collections that tell the story of our lives’ brought back a lot of memories for his readers and for me.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

He opens with this:

The cookbooks I’ve written about over the past three months were not included randomly. They weren’t selected because they offered up 97 clever things to do with a courgette and a spiraliser, or for their novel ways with quinoa. They were chosen because they had a serious impact on how we cook and how we eat. They were big sellers. As a result, week by week, people have discovered that they had the volume I was eulogising on their shelves. Some readers have owned a few of them.

But as this is the last column in the series, it’s time to look at a collection of recipes almost everyone has. I certainly have one. Mine has the word “Challenge” embossed on the front. That’s not a description of how hard the recipes are. It’s the name of the venerable stationery company which manufactured the blue, hardcover A4 notebook within which those ideas for dinner are contained. It is our collection of recipes cut from magazines and newspapers, photocopied from a friend’s book or scribbled down by a relative. It is an unplanned collage of a good life, or a feverish attempt at one, measured out in ingredients, volumes and oven temperatures. It is the ballad of traybakes and crumbles, of new and sophisticated ways with pasta and swift things to do with chicken and a bunch of lemons.

Rayner’s wife Pat started the cookbook over 30 years ago:

It is aspiration expressed through the medium of scissors and Pritt Stick. Witness: cider-glazed chops or peppered ham and tomato risotto or lamb and apricot kebabs. Many dishes remained just an aspiration. Some were cooked once or twice. Then there’s the discoloured recipe for Italian Celebration Turkey, which I return to often, if only for the stuffing. It’s a glorious mess of unsweetened chestnut purée, Parma ham, marjoram, sausage meat and onions cooked down in sherry. I have no idea who wrote it.

Food historian Annie Gray says that these recipe collections are:

a “sublime and fascinating form of biography”, which go back as long “as people have been writing things down”.

I fully agree. No two recipe scrapbooks or ring binders will be the same. Mine is completely different to my late mother’s and grandmothers’. Unfortunately, those are lost forever. My mother threw hers out before I could inherit it. My paternal grandmother’s went to my aunt and disappeared when she died.

Fortunately, my maternal grandmother’s collection went to her eldest granddaughter who, in the 1970s, had the genius idea of compiling them and publishing them in book form for our whole family. Everyone has a copy. Even better, anyone of us who had a favourite recipe could contribute it to the book. As a result, the recipes range from the traditional late 19th-century European staples from our family to more recent recipes from the Middle East and Asia, popularised in the United States of the late 1960s. We have my grandparents’ tastes, our mothers’ favourites from the 1950s and world food from the grandchildren.

But I digress.

Returning to Rayner, he says that the food historian Annie Gray bought an old cookbook with further pleasant surprises in it:

A few years ago, she found a volume by the 19th-century cookbook writer Florence A George on a Cambridge market stall. The book was interesting enough. “But better than that, it was stuffed full of recipes cut from newspapers and magazines dating from 1907 to the 1950s, collected by a previous owner. That’s pretty much a woman’s whole life measured out in these dishes.”

A friend of Rayner’s paid her daughter to compile her recipes in a ring-bound album format:

A few years ago, a close friend, Sarah, paid her daughter to stick all of hers into a ring-bound album. She admits she cooks few of them, but they do still tell her story. “There’s a lemon drizzle cake in there that I did many times when the kids were small and it reminds me of their childhood,” she says. “And there’s a Yorkshire curd tart recipe from my late sister written in her own hand, and that’s very important.”

Tim Anderson, an American who won the UK MasterChef title a few years ago, also has an album of family recipes from his childhood in Wisconsin:

“The original volume of Anderson Family Recipes dates from 2003 when my brother and I were off at college,” he says. “It’s recipes from my mother and grandmothers, food we ate when we were kids, though they don’t actually originate from my family in any way.” All of them came from boxes of torn clippings. It is a sturdy snapshot of American midwestern cooking, often incorporating the unashamed introduction of one canned or jarred product to another. Hooray for Betty Crocker. “There’s something called chicken Costa Brava involving chicken breasts, a jar of shop-bought salsa, jars of olives and tinned pineapple,” Tim says. “I really liked that growing up.”

Yes! I remember lots of those recipes, particularly the ones using packets of powdered onion soup mix or Campbell’s cream soups for sauces. Happy days!

I make all my sauces from scratch. It’s something I truly enjoy doing, but fond memories linger from my mother’s ladling cream of mushroom soup onto a beef dish and putting in the oven. Beef parmesan was one of my childhood favourites. For anyone wondering, the parmesan was Kraft’s, already grated, in the round cardboard container. We couldn’t get the real thing back then.

Jay Rayner implores us to make our own cookbooks for posterity. I have a handwritten one of my own, which I put together several years ago. I also have ring binders full of other recipes, some tried and tested, others which I’ve not yet used.

Rayner says that organising our family recipe collections is important:

An internet search history will never be as romantic as a scrapbook. It’s time, I think, to put a sheet of A4 through the printer. Perhaps it’s time we all did. Because without these collections we’ll lose a significant slab of our shared cultural, and edible, history. Future historians will not be able to work out our life stories through the dinners we dreamed of making. That would be a crying shame.

I couldn’t agree more. Fortunately, my far better half and I also have my mother-in-law’s extensive cookbook collection, from a 1960s edition of Larousse Gastronomique to Robert Carrier to Delia Smith. It is a 20th century treasure trove to behold — and to use!

Venison: I can take it or leave it.

It’s a very nutritious yet lean meat and, yes, it can taste gamy.

We had some venison for braising in the freezer, so I thawed it and decided to make something other than the usual watery casserole (ugh!).

It ended up being very tender and tasting like flavoursome beef.

This is a taste of the Mediterranean from the forest.

Churchmouse’s venison casserole

This recipe serves four people.

You will need two dinner plates for preparation and a large casserole pot with a lid for cooking.

This recipe involves operations with knives and scissors as well as hot fat, which might not be suitable for all cooks or vulnerable members of the household.

This is best served over rice.

Ingredients

Enough venison for braising for four people (approx. 1 lb or 450 g)

300ml (approx. 1 1/4 cups) pure orange juice

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary (dried equivalent will do)

2 large sprigs of fresh oregano (dried equivalent will do)

4 tbsp beef dripping (or duck fat)

3 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 medium sized bell peppers, finely chopped — one must be a red bell pepper, for a smoky flavour

3 large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

60ml (1/4 cup) port or red wine

60ml (1/4 cup) white vermouth (e.g. Noilly Prat, Cinzano, Martini)

1 tbsp raspberry or balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp tomato paste (mixed with the vinegar)

Salt

Pepper

Cayenne pepper

150g (5oz) flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

Method

The meat must be marinaded 24 hours in advance.

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F) before cooking.

1/  Remove visible sinews (silvery ‘skin’) and nerves (long white bits) with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Otherwise, the meat will be tough.

2/  Place the meat and the herbs in a Pyrex dish, season with salt, pepper and cayenne, then cover with orange juice. Put a lid on the dish and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3/  The next day, remove the meat from the Pyrex dish, pat dry and cut away any further sinews and nerves. Cut the meat into evenly sized cubes.

4/  Reserve the orange juice for the sauce (see below).

5/  Put 2 tbsp beef dripping (or duck fat) and 1 tbsp butter in the casserole pot and warm over medium heat until hot. Add salt, pepper and cayenne.

6/  Add the finely chopped onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent and tender. Placing a lid on the pot will help the onion cook quicker.

7/  Add the chopped bell peppers and the chopped garlic. Return the lid to the pan and cook for three minutes.

8/  While the vegetables are cooking, put 110g (4oz) of flour onto a large plate or into a plastic bag for food, add 2 tsp of salt, a dash of pepper and enough cayenne pepper to taste. Place the cubed venison into it and toss (plate) or shake (bag) until well blended. Put to one side afterwards.

9/  Remove the sautéed vegetables from the pot onto a large dinner plate. Add 2 tbsp beef dripping (or duck fat) and 1 tbsp of butter. Allow to warm up over medium heat.

10/ When the fat is sizzling, place the floured venison cubes evenly in the pan. This might take three separate goes, as the meat must be evenly spaced. Not all of the meat will fit into the pot at one time. I did mine in three turns.

11/ When the meat is browned on one side — after three minutes — turn over to brown on the other.

12/ Remove the meat and place onto a dinner plate. Repeat steps 10 and 11 and this step for the rest of the meat until it is all browned and on the dinner plate.

13/ To make the sauce, place 1 tbsp of butter and 40g (1oz) of flour into the casserole pot. Stir until browned and well incorporated. Season again with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

14/ Add the raspberry or balsamic vinegar, mixed with the tomato paste. Stir again.

15/ Add the port (or red wine) and stir well until smooth.

16/ Add the white vermouth and stir well until smooth.

17/ Add the orange juice from the marinade gradually — three additions work well — stirring thoroughly after each one. This is the sauce for your venison casserole. Add the meat and the vegetables. Stir until everything is mixed together. Add another sprig of rosemary and oregano, if you like.

18/ Place a lid on the casserole pot and put into the preheated oven for 1 hour.

19/ Turn the oven off and leave for another hour.

20/ If you need to reheat before serving, do so at 100°C (200ºF) for 20 minutes. Check beforehand to see if you need to add a bit of water to cut the thickness of the casserole. If so, stir well before reheating.

21/ Remove the herbs from the pot. Serve the casserole over buttered, seasoned rice.

22/ You can reheat any leftovers the following day on a very low heat on top of the stove for 15 or 20 minutes.

The venison will be fork-tender and taste like beef. The vegetables will have melted into the sauce.

This is the dish for people who are not that keen on venison — or vegetables. It’s a win-win all around, even during the summer months.

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.

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