Brittany Bites

A girlie week au bord de la mer, exploring a new patch of France and breathing in some sea air. We’ve been on our holidays to Penmar’ch on the south coast of Brittany.
Boy, it’s been a treat to the senses. The sight and sounds of the sea. To feel the sand beneath my feet and to taste the delights of the region. Having grown up by the sea I guess I just took the beach for granted and I haven’t missed it but to be back is rather lovely and particularly such a beautiful spot.


We arrived with boxes of chocolate, wine, whiskey and veg from the garden. What more could we need. It turns out quite a lot…..
Oysters, Petoncles, Mukhwas, Crevettes Grises, Kouign Amann, Etrilles, Bigorneaux, Picon Beer and Far.
Trying new things, yum.

Here’s a run down –

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Oyster/huître
Slimey, poncey, pricey molluscs. I want to taste my food not chuck it down my throat. Well on our first day we stumbled upon a bustling, colourful market and we discovered Mandy was a bit of an oyster pro and Maylin and I had never tried them. We left with a dozen spurred on by Mandy’s oyster enthusiasm. When in Rome…..
It’s a mad old process and watching Mandy try to open the things with a blunt knife, letting them rest and then before you start you poke it to check it shrinks back….it’s alive folks. It’s shrunk so now you cut beneath the foot of the oyster to release it from it’s shell….with a hunk of bread and butter on the side of the plate and the squirt of lemon on the huître in it goes. Shell to lips and bang we’re beside the sea. The sun is shining the waves are lapping and there’s joyful chatter in the background. No sliding down the throat, that’s utter ‘rubbish’ I’ve learnt. Chew it, taste it.
We’ve had 3 nights of oysters – 3, they’re good. We must be on our holidays!

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Petoncles
The poor man’s scallop. They’re pretty – mini mermaid shells and sound great as they’re scooped up into the bag. Mandy cooked these in butter with white wine, onion, garlic & parsley. Mouth watering stuff. Poured from a huge pan into a bowl we huddled around and got stuck in. Good bread to mop up the juices. Lots of uuuuuming followed.

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Mukhwas
So, a break from the sea for the moment to travel to India. We’ve had a few nice curries this week too. We stopped off on our way to Brittany and were lucky to find a fab underground Indian restaurant. A good curry was a regular event for me in England and you don’t often find them in my new home. So we tucked into our lunch and re-fuelled looked forward to reaching our destination. Mandy went to get the car and Maylin and I were handed a small pot of spices. We look at each other – where’s Mandy, our food expert – she did used to run a restaurant. We shrug and chuck a good pinch into our mouths and showed the white’s of our eyes as a new foody spark lit. Mandy returns and of course knows all about the stuff. It’s Mukhwas which is served as a digestive and to freshen breath. The one we had was a mix of fennel, caraway, anis and some brightly coloured sugar strands – I’ve since learnt you could use chopped dates or coconut to sweeten for a more natural blend. Later in the week we went to Quimper and found an indoor market whilst searching for a loo! I spotted a small brightly decorated stall run by just one man surrounded by his customers perched on stalls.

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More real, authentic food washed down with lassi’s and then we spot little bags of Mukhwas on the counter. We knew what we were doing now and dived in. This one had rose sugar in it and the anise was in much bigger pieces. We all agreed the first was better but still good. It does clean the pallet and means you’re not tasting your curry for the rest of the day cos it’s good at the time but curry burps for hours afterwards…… Mukhwas is the answer!

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Crevettes Grises/Brown shrimp
Back to the sea and little crevettes grises – sounds so much more elegant that brown shrimp don’t you think? So, tiny morcels that you head, tail, suck and chew. For their size they pack a flavour punch.

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Kouign Amann
This is a cake of the region and translates in Breton to mean cake butter. Oh yes, layers of bread dough with butter and sugar folded in. The butter makes it puff up and the sugar caramelises. Eaten hot in appreciative silence. I can see why this cake has been on the menu since 1860!
Etrilles
Tiny crabs that to be honest tested my fruits de mer limits. They’re ugly spidery crustaceans that reminded Maylin of a wood louse – they curl up – oooohhh. Anyway, you can’t love everything! The legs also make ace winkle tools – did I just say that.

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Bigorneaux/Winkles
Sea snails that we had fun trying to get out the shells! Etrille legs worked a lot better than Maylin’s wooden pins and given how long it took us to get the little things out of their shell they must work out to be dream diet food too!

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Picon Biére
Now this is an absolute delight and something I plan on drinking a lot more of.
Mandy and I decide to take the 2km walk through the sand to get to Kerity, our neighbouring town to get our supper supplies. Now that’s thirsty work and Mandy decided it was a good time to introduce me to picon biére. I can only wonder why she waited so long! Picon is an 18% abv orange flavoured bitters. Add a shot to a beer and it is good, really good. It not only gives your beer an injection of alcohol (be warned) it also, thanks to the bitters make your beer dark & bitter like – go figure!!!!

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Far
After a night of picon bière a slab of far could be just what you are looking for….
Far is another traditional Breton cake or pud. An egg custard with prunes.
It’s thick and wobbly – all you can do is sink your teeth in. Served in big wedges and was originally eaten by agricultural workers who took it into the fields for their lunch – I’m
guessing it’s not light on the calories!
Far is from the Latin farina, meaning flour.

I love food.
Hal

mand H on the beach 1

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