Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel
Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel

Cooking with Minxie

Cooking here is a way of life, it ranges from rustic, regional dishes to elaborate, haute cuisine – and everything in between. At one end of the spectrum is rural France: grape pressing, salt harvesting and slow cooked stews. At the other end of the scale is Paris’ tradition of high dining: rich confits, morel mushrooms, thick roux and gold-brushed croquembouche.

It is a serious art form and a national sport. Nowhere does this apply more than the French pâtisserie or chocolatier’s studio: Pierre Hermé’s macarons and Jean-Paul Hévin’s mendiants. Chantilly crème, crystallised flowers, mille-feuille, éclairs and chouquettes. Celebrity pâtissiers’ sculpted window displays are more like art installations than shop fronts, and dessert – served after cheese – is anything but an afterthought.

Beside visual delight, there is a strong emphasis on flavour and seasoning throughout our cuisine. Burnt red Espelette pepper is grown in the Pyrenees, and fleur de sel flakes coat the Bay of Biscay’s salt marshes. Further south, vineyards produce some of the world’s best wine – and vinegar. And even further toward the Mediterranean coast are Provence’s lavender fields and olive groves.

One of the reasons I went to culinary school was to have an understanding of why my recipes didn’t always work. Things would succeed if I followed the recipe to the letter, but if I played or strayed at all they would have as much chance of being a disaster as they did a winner. In culinary school I learned enough about food science to be able to play with recipes or create my own from scratch. I learned why eggs should be warm when you whip them and why you should use low protein flours for cakes and higher ones for breads.

So do not expect these pages to have been written by an expert, these are barely pages by an amateur, if the truth were known. There are numerous cookbooks available for those who are serious about learning regional French cooking. This is simply a taste for anyone who has not had the pleasure of eating galettes or sipping cider. My selection of recipes in no way typifies Breton cooking, largely because we Bretons eat a wide variety of food. Besides, the recipes I have selected are hardly a fair sampling of any culture’s cooking! So take this as a very idiosyncratic, very vague, introduction to a really scrumptious cuisine, go to serious chefs, teachers and cookbooks (or better still, come to Brittany) if you want the real thing!!

However, given that we tend to set ourselves apart from the rest of France, it is surprising that we do not have our own distinctive style of cooking. The only true Breton speciality is the pancake. Crêperies are a common sight, offering an imaginative range of savoury and sweet pancakes (galettes and crêpes, respectively). Our other regional dish is cotriade, a fish stew traditionally made from conger eel and the remains of the catch. Generally, our cuisine is simple, with little use of sauces, and features much fish and seafood. Try Palourdes Farcies (baked clams stuffed with garlic, herbs and shallots) or Pot au Feu d'homard (lobster, shrimp, scallop, mussel and oyster stew). Our young lambs, raised on the salt meadows, are also very good.

I hope you will enjoy the new layout of these pages and will use some of the recipes I have provided.

Apprécier l'expérience d'essayer de quelque chose nouveau !!

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