Monday, 31 December 2012

My Big Fat French Christmas

I realize I'm a bit late with this Christmas leftover post- it is New Year's Eve- and most of you have already used up all the turkey and gravy and veg. Indeed, some of you have already told me about your turkey curries, Boxing Day buffets, Chow Phan and soups.

My Christmas was a bit different this year - as we spent the week in Provence and had a Franglais Feast instead of the usual menu.

Gardianne de Taureau
Christmas in the South of France begins with the Gros Souper (Big Fat Supper) on Christmas Eve, followed by midnight mass and then a family meal on Christmas Day (often a stew such as Gardianne de Taureau or Daube).

Torchlight procession to mass
We decided (and French family members and friends grudgingly agreed) to have the best of both worlds : torchlight procession to mass on Christmas Eve, mass in Provencal but no Gros Souper- Christmas dinner on the 25th instead.

To start we had foie gras toasts, snail vol aux vents and champagne (no leftovers there.)


For the main meal, we had roast veal and a roast guinea fowl stuffed with chestnuts and all the trimmings- including of course and much to the chagrin of les francais: roast parsnips and brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and bread sauce. All washed down with loads of the local wine.

Chateau Virant

Dessert was another matter.

13 Desserts

The culmination of the Gros Souper is traditionally The 13 Desserts.

Now thirteen might seem a little excessive- as indeed it would be if they were made up of puddings like profiteroles, Black Forest gateau and mince pies- but in fact these are just little tastes: nuts, fruit, dried fruits, nougat, sugared almonds and so on. (Of course we did add Christmas pudding to the list.)

You nibble these after dinner- and then they keep for the rest of the week as your puddings. A sentiment I appreciate.

I undertook to make one of the crucial elements- pain d'epice ( a dark spiced gingerbread loaf.)

I searched for the recipe online - and made a creditable loaf. I was struck however as to how much it resembled an old family recipe from home - the ginger cake recipe featured below is from a family cookbook circa 1955. The only difference was that I added butter rather than 'Trex' (let's avoid too much hydrogenated fat), some extra mixed spice,  and honey rather than treacle (treacle being impossible/extortionate to source in Southern France.) Either way this is a foolproof cake, simple, involves no patisserie skill, and keeps for ages- it's wonderful with butter on or (apparently, according to Frenchmen, dipped in morning coffee.) My kind of cake recipe.

Ginger Cake Recipe (click to enlarge)

Fab food- but what was left over?

We had parsnips and carrots, bread sauce, potato gratin, large quantities of meat and stuffing, gravy and -unsurprisingly- brussels sprouts to use up.

Guests had been invited - so we decided to do a 'Best of Les Restes'- leftover meal.

Main course was Boxing Day Pie: a delicious confection of guinea fowl, stuffing, parsnips and carrots, mixed into a bechamel sauce, thickened with leftover bread sauce and then baked in a rough puff pastry pie.

Boxing Day Pie with Bubble and Squeak

You can of course make this pie with any leftover roast, veg,  stuffing, pigs in blankets, whatever- give it a try!

To accompany it, we had Bubble and Squeak made from the sprouts mashed with the gratin and fried in patties in a little olive oil.

Who would have thought that a duo of Frenchmen would wolf down brussels sprouts without realizing - and compliment the chef on the dish! I barely had time to take a photo as everybody was already digging in!Take note if you have children who won't eat their greens!

Sadly, all good things come to an end at some point, and we have now returned to Blighty for the New Year.

Luckily, the cheery woman on the Easyjet desk (no sarcasm- she was delightful) only weighed our hold luggage. Our big fat Franglais stomachs would surely have incurred a fine!

And a Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. Salut, Il s'agit d'un bon poste, en effet un excellent travail. Vous devez avoir effectué des recherches pour le travail, je vous remercie de vos efforts.
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