Monday, 25 March 2013

Week 8- Le Weekend

Easter is a time for family gatherings- and I have plenty booked in for the next few weeks. So we decided to have a quick weekend away before it all kicks off!
We chose one of our favourite old haunts- le Touquet Paris- Plage (or Paris by the sea!)

As the seagull flies, this swanky little resort is just diagonally across the channel from Seaford in East Sussex- but the contrast between the two seaside towns could not be more stark.

Le Touquet was made popular in the Twenties and Thirties by the English royalty and aristocracy- who enjoyed hunting on horseback in the forests and sand dunes by day and gambling with unrestricted abandon by night in the casino. It soon became the destination of choice for movie stars and wealthy Parisians too (hence the name). The 'Golden Triangle' in le Touquet's forest is a sort of millionaire's housing estate- with the most eccentrically English country homes recreated as villas and mansions.

The whole place is redolent of wealth, privilege and fashionable chi-chi. I don't think the same could be said of Seaford.

Seafordians might well ask "Where are the aristocracy when you need 'em?"

Well, along with us, they went on holiday to le Touquet.

We've had family holidays here on and off since the Nineties- and have stayed everywhere from the art deco Westminster Hotel to the campsite and all places in between. A few years ago, we discovered a super apartment just between the casino and the Westminster and wouldn't stay anywhere else now. Check it out for yourselves on  . We've only ever stayed in this flat in the winter, when it is uber-cosy- but I'm sure it is great in the summer when le T transforms into a traditional French family seaside resort.

Anyway, on to some food.

Restaurants in le Touquet are pretty pricey- a better name for the town would be le Touquet Paris-Prix- as the business people try to charge as much as they can get away with- but there are exceptions where you can eat fabulous food for reasonable prices. We made it our quest to find them. (Look for my reviews on Trip Advisor.)

The fish market
However, if you can stay self-catering, then this is the place to shop. There is a fabulous covered market selling fish, meat and local veg and produce. There are super bakeries and chocolate shops. It's a cook's dream.

We ate in a simple snack for lunch- but had delicious croques and crepes with salad.


Rabbit saute
Dinner was more refined- rabbit saute, fish straight from the quayside and cafe gourmand with lots of delicious little tastes.

Suitably inspired - I've planned a three course menu for you- facon touquettoise.

To start, French onion soup with mini croques-messieurs. Followed by plaice cooked a la meuniere with steamed asparagus and potatoes, and finished off with pain perdu and ice cream.

For the onion soup, gently cook 4 onions ( red or white, according to your taste) in a little vegetable oil, then add a glass of wine (again red or white). Boil off the alcohol for 6 minutes then add 1 litre of stock. I then put my soup into a slow cooker for 4-5 hours as that makes the onions wonderfully tender and the stock really rich, but you could pressure cook for 30 minutes or simmer for 1 hour for a similar result.

Slow cooked onion soup

Normally, this is served with French bread , sprinkled with grated cheese and flashed under the grill until it melts- but I took my inspiration from my snack bar lunch and served this with tiny croques.

Tiny croques

Use a pastry cutter to cut out small shapes from some soft white bread (I buy aperitif toasts in France which are ready cut to size). Butter them and sandwich a slice of cheese (cheddar, gruyere or emmental) and a slice of ham between the unbuttered sides. Quickly toast in a sandwich machine. Then make a welsh rarebit paste from 125g of grated cheese, a tablespoon of  plain flour, a teaspoon of mustard and a splash of milk. Spread on the top of your little sandwiches and then flash them under a grill until the cheese is brown and bubbling ( about 1 minute).

The fish is simplicity itself.

Choose fresh flat fish such as plaice,  lemon sole or Dover sole and dust with flour and salt and pepper.
Melt a small pat of butter in a frying pan until it starts to foam and add the fish, presentation side down. Cook for 2 minutes and then turn and cook for a further 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish.

Sole meuniere
Allow to rest in the pan for another 2 minutes or so, then slide onto a plate and sprinkle with parsley. I served mine with asparagus steamed over boiled potatoes.

Eggs in the covered market
Pudding is a leftover classic: pain perdu is fried eggy bread. It's most delicious made with sweet bread such as brioche, leftover madeira or lemon cake, fruit loaf or that panettone you were given for Christmas which is nearing its use-by date.

Beat two eggs with some vanilla sugar and a teaspoon of milk. Soak slices of brioche, bread or cake in the egg until it is all absorbed .Heat a little butter in a frying pan until it starts to foam then fry your slices for a few minutes until golden on both sides. Plate up, dusted with cinnamon, icing sugar and some fruit.

Pain perdu
Serve with ice cream or cream.

There are very few leftovers form this meal- but any leftover asparagus and potato from the main course makes a lovely velvety asparagus soup, blitzed with some stock and milk.

It's back to Blighty now for Easter, leaving behind the wealth and chic of le Touquet. But you can still eat like a king without spending a king's ransom, if you keep watching this space!

One did enjoy the shopping!

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