Galette des Rois – a French celebration of Epiphany

Adoration of the Magi by Monaco Lorenzo c. 1422. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Adoration of the Magi by Monaco Lorenzo c. 1422. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

It’s January 6th and the boulangeries and patisseries here in Albi are full of large round tarts, the famous Galette des Rois, which are traditionally eaten on the 6th January to celebrate Epiphany, the visit of the Three Wise Men. The tart is made of buttery flaky pastry with a filling of frangipane (almond paste) though you can also buy galettes with a chocolate filling and even Nutella. Hidden in the filling is a fève – traditionally, a dried broad bean. In the 19th century, the bean was replaced by a tiny porcelain figurine  but now, they are inevitably plastic! Whoever finds the fève is king or queen for the day and they get to wear a cardboard crown (usually sold with the galette). Continue reading “Galette des Rois – a French celebration of Epiphany”

The Charms of a Not So Perfect Christmas

My father died when I was 12. Christmases were a little less perfect after that. Grandmother did her best to make the holiday special, but her heart wasn’t in it as she watched my mother slide into alcoholism. My brother left home. As soon as school ended I headed for grimy, raw edged London determined to create my own life and Christmases. Continue reading “The Charms of a Not So Perfect Christmas”

My Just Desserts

Let’s get this straight, British desserts rock. Italians maybe the past masters at gelato – read my post ‘Decamping the Ice Cream Myth’ – chased only on the commercial edge by the Americans; the French may claim fruit tarts, custard based crèmes and le soufflé; the Portuguese have heavenly custard tarts and Australians the pavlova; but no one else does ‘puddings’ like the British do. Sticky toffee, suet, bread and butter, upside down and not forgetting Christmas’s ‘figgy’, all hearty warming puddings that smothered in custard stick to your soul and offer comfort.  Continue reading “My Just Desserts”

Expatriated Desserts

Fresh fruit, unctuous caramel and creamy custard

When I married for the first time and, at the age of 18 left for Africa to join my expatriate banker husband, my small circle of friends was, on the whole, envious. On the face of it there was a great deal to be envious about. In London I shared a hostel room with two other girls; in Ghana I moved into a fully furnished, light and airy apartment, with a house boy to do all the cleaning, cooking and washing. I exchanged a monotonous job for the excitement of travel, and different countries to explore and, although I left good friends behind, there was a ready-made circle of expatriates to fit into. Life was going to be one long round of sun, sand, and cocktail parties. Continue reading “Expatriated Desserts”

The Art of Digestion

The joy of being a Londoner is that you never run out of things to do or see. Man and I are often lucky enough to be able to skive off mid-week and spend an hour or two wandering around the capital’s museums and exhibitions. Art in particular, from the medieval to the modern, is high on our list of interests, to admire as well as to buy. Continue reading “The Art of Digestion”

A Tale of Two Picnics

The view from Snowdon
The view from Snowdon

A picnic is ‘an occasion when a packed meal is eaten in an outside setting’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The British enthusiasm for picnics is truly the triumph of hope over experience, be it parked up in a lay-by, surrounded by wind breaks on a stony beach, or on rare occasions, lying in long grass contemplating the Magritte clouds passing by overhead in a pool of blue sky. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Picnics”

Hydropathic Pudding – once an invalid food, now all that is best about summer

Soft Fruit Simmering

Gone are the days when Doctors visited the sick at home. It was common practice in 1950s Essex. I wasn’t often ill, just normal childhood ailments which weren’t fussed about or vaccinated against.  But when a sore throat turned into tonsillitis and the Doctor was called, then I was worried. Continue reading “Hydropathic Pudding – once an invalid food, now all that is best about summer”

Rich Rice Pudding – my favourite comfort food

A lot of milk and a little rice go a long way...
A lot of milk and a little rice go a long way…

My mother hated rice pudding. As a young teenager, she was evacuated during the war from a bombed-out Birmingham to the relative peace of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The family who took her in had their own cow, so there was plenty of milk, and a good cheap way to fill up young stomachs during war-time rationing was with rice pudding (it still amazes me how a tiny amount of rice can end up filling an entire pudding dish, thanks to all the milk!). Continue reading “Rich Rice Pudding – my favourite comfort food”

Petits Pots de Creme au Chocolat – memories of summers on the Normandy coast

Les petits pot de creme au chocolat
Les petits pot de creme au chocolat

Nearly half a century ago, I ate the most simple of chocolate puddings. The pudding itself was delicious but what really captured my imagination was what it was served in – a tiny white pot with its own lid, decorated with gold trim. It was 19th century porcelain and part of a set of eight little pots with a matching porcelain tray. Nicole, my French friend who had cooked the pudding, told me they were called “petit pots de crème au chocolat” and were made specifically for ‘crème au chocolat’. Continue reading “Petits Pots de Creme au Chocolat – memories of summers on the Normandy coast”