Foraging for mushrooms in the Orne

The prize: the Cèpe d’or, or rather, the Golden Porcini mushroom in English, though that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it… No, this particular mushroom is not edible, but you can win it at the Mycologiades Internationals, the International Wild Mushroom Festival, which takes place at the end of September in the village of Bellême, the home of all things mushroom in Normandy.

Often in autumn, I’m stuck for ideas on what to do – winter’s on its way, and the bad weather with it. Of course, it is apple season in Normandy but I’m looking for other fresh foodie ideas. Why not mushrooms? I can already picture the colours of the forest and hear the crunch of leaves under my feet!

2551-Cueillette des champignons -® J.E. Rubio--® J.E. Rubio.jpg
© J. E. Rubio / Normandy Tourist Board

Since 1953, the International Wild Mushroom Festival in the Perche Regional Natural Park has been welcoming visitors on a mushroom foraging quest led by a mycologist (that’s a mushroom expert to you and me). So it was that my friend and I took a basket one Sunday last autumn and played Little Red Riding Hood for the weekend. After the mushroom foraging, all of our foodie treasures were laid out and we were given a presentation on all of the different mushrooms that we had found. Alas, our efforts were not quite enough to win us the coveted Golden Porcini, but we were proud of ourselves, and now felt far more confident about telling the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms!

2550-Cueillette des champignons -® J.E. Rubio--® J.E. Rubio.jpg
© J. E. Rubio / Normandy Tourist Board

I could well have enjoyed eating some tasty mushrooms at the festival but there was a nearby mushroom hot-spot that I wanted to try whilst I was in the Perche: La Tête Noire restaurant in the nearby village of Saint-Germain-de-la-Coudre. Only 15 minutes from the International Wild Mushroom Festival, La Tête Noire offers an intimate, buzzy atmosphere and serves fresh food sourced from local artisan producers. In keeping with the theme of the day, I opted for the restaurant’s speciality: soft-boiled eggs with fried wild mushrooms. Yum yum, it tasted like grandma’s homemade cooking and gave a real taste of Perche terroir.

Cueillette des champignons © J.E. Rubio
© J. E. Rubio / Normandy Tourist Board

At the end of our dinner, the waitress passed our table with some mouth-watering dauphinois potatoes with mushrooms and Normandy cream – it smelt irresistible! When I saw the couple who had ordered it enjoying their meal, I knew I should not miss out on this experience – that’s what I’ll be ordering next time! One strawberry baba dessert later, I left the restaurant, pleasantly full and satisfied with my lot, readier than ever to face the coming week.

Dauphinois Potatoes
© Joe Gough

This year, the International Wild Mushroom Festival takes place from 28 September to 1 October, and offers all sorts of fun mushroomy activities like exhibitions, seminars, and of course the Cèpe d’or competition! If you are interested in taking part in this foraging extravaganza, visit the website to sign up: www.mycologiades.com (website in French only).

Alternatively, if you fancied an autumn ramble in the forest and a leisurely lunch at La Tête Noire, why not browse the Perche Regional Natural Park website for walking routes and book a table? Bon appétit!

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

Cover photo © J. E. Rubio / Normandy Tourist Board | Writer: Marie Buchet

A pinch of Normandy saffron

Trug basket in hand, Myriam Duteuil carefully scans her saffron beds, assessing which of the crocus blooms are ready for harvesting. She carefully picks flowers that pass muster, taking care not to remove leaves with them as that can damage the bulb (or corm) beneath. Each flower yields just three of the precious red stigmas that are extracted and dried to make saffron strands.

IMG_5961
© F. Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board

This precision method of harvesting, hard on the knees and back and unchanged from images on Minoan frescoes from 3,500BC, combined with a regular cycle of replanting each summer to ensure a steady supply of flowers, and the need to plant and weed by hand, helps to explain why the ‘spice of joy’ costs more than gold.

None of this deterred Myriam – the daughter and grand-daughter of farmers – when she decided to return to her roots and grow apples and saffron organically at the Domaine de Gauville, in St-Pierre de Salerne, south-west of Rouen.

Version 2
© William Crossley

She bought the farmstead a decade ago, while working as a TV executive in Paris. During a long broadcasting career she devised and then ran Cuisine TV, France’s main food channel, but six years ago decided to change tack. ‘Saffron has an exotic image,’ says Myriam. ‘Most of the world’s supply comes from Iran, but it really needs cool, moist conditions to grow well. The ideal temperature is about 15°C, so Normandy is a good place for it.’

Saffron was widely grown across Europe in the Middle Ages, when it was prized for its medicinal qualities. The East of England was a key centre for production and the flower gave its name to the Essex town of Saffron Walden.

img_5931.jpg
© F. Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board

Myriam planted 21,000 bulbs in 1.2 hectares of beds in 2012, gathering her first harvest in 2015, and plans to expand the area she cultivates to two hectares. The saffron crocus blooms in autumn, with the harvesting period lasting about four weeks, usually in October. ‘I pick in the early morning, before the flowers open,’ says Myriam. ‘A skilled picker can collect 1,000 flowers in an hour, which will produce 5g of saffron. I dry the flowers and then open them to extract the stigmas.’

img_5946-e1504715013916.jpg
© F. Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board

Her harvest yields about 700g of saffron a year. A kilogram is worth about £25,000. Total annual production in France is 150kg, a figure that pales by comparison with the 30 tonnes a year produced before the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.

Myriam sells her saffron packaged as strands for both professional chefs and home cooks to use in their dishes, along with a range of saffron-flavoured preserves, biscuits, cake, mustard and vinegar under her Biâo Pur Safran de Normandie brand (Biâo is the Norman dialect word for beautiful). Another customer is a local dairy, which makes delicately-flavoured saffron ice cream.

She is keen to encourage people to make more use of saffron in their cooking: ‘It used to be used by so many people in everyday recipes, but now in France it is mostly used by chefs or in seasonal foods for Christmas, particularly in Normandy.’

Her top tip when buying saffron is to look for strands that are deep red in colour. If it looks brown or yellowy it has been over-dried or is too old to use, or may have been adulterated.

IMG_5951
© F. Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board

Myriam emphasises saffron’s versatility in the kitchen, for everything from a Moroccan-style morning tea infusion using a single strand, to a risotto, paella or a sweet apple cake. She recommends three strands per person in a sweet dish, six per person in a savoury dish and nine per person in a paella or with shellfish.

Version 2
© William Crossley

She adds: ‘As well as using the right amount, saffron should always be infused in a liquid before it is used in a dish – water, stock, milk or cream – and added five to 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time to add flavour. If you are making risotto, put the saffron in some stock the night before. Rehydrating dried saffron liberates the flavour and colour.’

IMG_5944.JPG
© F. Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board

For those keen to learn more, Myriam runs two-day cookery classes in a professional-standard kitchen at the farm, including visits from local chefs and bakers, with accommodation provided in the farmhouse, which can also be rented as a gîte. You could even help out with this year’s harvest, but book soon to avoid disappointment!

For more information about the Domaine de Gauville and Biâo Safran de Normandie, visit the Domaine de Gauville website (in French). For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

This copy has been reproduced courtesy of the Oxford Times.

Cover photo © Normandy Tourist Board | Writer: William Crossley

 

 

It’s a family thing: Camembert with a twist

It’s not every day that a new cheese hits the stalls. In this case, we can’t exactly say that the variety itself is new, as we’re taking about Camembert, but read on and you’ll understand what we’re all excited about.

A year ago, Charles Bréant and his four brothers decided to open a cheese production line in a bid to diversify the family farm located in Bermonville, at the heart of the Pays de Caux, north west of Rouen. Instead of inventing a new variety, they chose to go back to basics and settled on making Camembert, Normandy’s most famous cheese. The idea wasn’t revolutionary, but it marked the opening of the only Camembert production site in the Seine-Maritime département.

5 frères
© Le 5 Frères

‘Fifty years ago, there were still many producers in Seine-Maritime,’ explains Charles. ‘However, most of them disappeared when Camembert was granted AOC [Controlled Origin Certification] status in 1983.’

What makes the Bréant family’s cheese so special then? First, it’s a Camembert fermier, meaning the entire production process is completed on the farm. All the milk comes from the family’s own herd of 200 dairy cows, and Charles knows exactly what they’ve been fed. Only raw milk is used, and the cheeses are moulés à la louche (moulded by ladle), just as they should be. After a month’s ripening, they are boxed and packaged on site, bearing a very distinctive label. Unlike most Camembert boxes, which picture a lazy cow or an idyllic Norman village, the Bréant brothers’ logo is minimalist and trendy. ‘We really wanted to try something different and our main aim was to target a younger audience with our packaging,’ says Charles. The blue and white triangles sure do stand out!

charles breant
© Charles Bréant
5 frères 2
© Le 5 Frères

As for the name of the cheese, it speaks for itself: Le 5 Frères. The family cut to the chase and Charles swears that the name isn’t just a gimmick: ‘All five of us really do work on the farm and we all have different tasks to complete.’ At present, 150 Camemberts a day are produced on site, but the number is growing month by month. ‘People really enjoy the product and word of mouth is our only marketing and sales strategy at the moment,’ Charles explains. Le 5 Frères is mainly sold at local markets, cheese shops and épiceries fines, and is also on the menu in several restaurants across Normandy.

Now that Normandy has fallen for their tasty Camembert, Charles and his siblings would like to introduce the product to British cheese-lovers. ‘We are working with a distributor and we would both love to start exporting our Camembert to the UK,’ says Charles. In the meantime, if you want to meet the team, taste the cheese or stock up for the winter, head to the Fête du ventre et de la Gastronomie normande [which literally translates to ‘Festival of the Stomach and Norman Gastronomy’]  on 14-15 October in Rouen, where the brothers will be running a stall. And if you’re ever passing by Bermonville, near Yvetot, when you’re next in Normandy, why not pop in and see the family-run farm for yourselves?

5 frères 3
© Le 5 Frères

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

All photos © Tesseraud / IRQUA-Normandie | Writer: Ben Collier

Love food? Love Le Havre!

When you think of foodie destinations in France, Le Havre is not exactly what springs to mind. Yet this buzzing coastal city in Normandy is fast finding its feet as a popular weekend destination for foodies, families and francophiles. Not only is it super simple to travel over to Le Havre from the UK – a mere 6-hour ferry from Portsmouth, to be precise – but the city is also celebrating its 500th anniversary this year, so there’s all sorts of fun to be had there.

Le Havre’s concrete facades lend a modern feel to the city centre, 90% of which was destroyed during the Second World War and completely rebuilt in the years that followed. Designed by Auguste Perret, a leading architect of the time, pristine low-rise blocks give us a remarkable sense of space here not often found in cities – the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is one of the largest squares in Europe, and the Avenue Foch, which leads down to the beach, is wider even than the Champs Elysées. So impressive is Perret’s post-war reconstruction that in 2005, UNESCO classified Le Havre’s city centre a World Heritage Site.

But back to the food! As you might expect, being by the sea, Le Havre boasts a whole host of places to eat fish and seafood. It is also a great place to savour all the Norman classics, and showcases local specialties such as marmite dieppoise (fish stew) alongside meat dishes, topped off (of course) with an apple tart. From the rue Racine and the Saint-François quarter in the city centre to the bars and restaurants lining the beach, there is certainly something to suit everyone’s tastes.

So whether you fancy fish or could murder some meat, the following recommendations have got you covered!

Le Grignot

Opposite Le Volcan [The Volcano] in Le Havre’s bustling bar and restaurant district, Le Grignot is one of the most famous brasseries in Le Havre. Specialising in seafood platters, delicious traditional recipes and organic food, its dishes are seasonal and cooked fresh. Grab a table on the terrace and enjoy views of the Volcano, which lights up blue at night!

IMG_0279.JPG

Steak

Saison 2

Situated right on the promenade overlooking the beach, Saison 2‘s unfussy menu features classics such as burger and chips, meat and two veg, and the must-have dish when at the beach in France: moules-frites. Enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine while watching the sun set over the sea – what better way to spend an evening?

img_0650-e1504182693964.jpg

New Picture 3.jpg

Le Grand Large

A little way out of town in the stylish neighbouring town of Sainte-Adresse, Le Grand Large, which means the open sea, boasts a maritime menu of epic proportions against a a panoramic view of the Channel. Be sure to try the prawns with citrus fruit followed by this restaurant’s pièce de résistance, the mighty marmite dieppoise.

IMG_8713

FullSizeRender

Le Bouchon Normand

The word bouchon may make you think of Lyon, but fear not, this restaurant is all Norman! With all ingredients sourced in the region, a particular favourite of ours is the feuilleté de pommes tatin Pont l’Evêque (that’s apple and cheese puff pastry to you and me). For those especially partial to a bit of pomme, there’s also apple tart on the menu…

La Taverne Paillette

Founded in 1596, the Taverne Paillette is almost as old as the city of Le Havre, and is therefore a local landmark in itself. Serving food throughout the day, seven days a week, this lively restaurant is renowned for three things, its delicious seafood (to which we can attest), its sumptious sauerkraut and its refreshing home-brewed beer. Santé !

FullSizeRender

IMG_1592

Le Bistrot des Halles

Right on the market square, Le Bistrot des Halles is somewhat of an institution in Le Havre. With its parquet floor, wooden bar and wall plaques, it is the very epitome of what we Brits think of as classic French décor and with its vast selection of tasty salads, main courses (we opted for sea bream) and desserts, its food doesn’t disappoint either!

img_7884-e1504178671709.jpg

IMG_7888

If you’ve got a taste of Le Havre and now fancy a foodie break there, click here for more inspiration! The city’s 500th anniversary celebrations are going on until 5th November this year so don’t miss out on all the fun!

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

Photos © Fran Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board | Writer: Fran Lambert

Catch of the day in Courseulles

Courseulles-sur-Mer in the Normandy département of Calvados is a small fishing village a 20-minute drive from Caen, situated in the heart of the D-Day Landing Beaches. You might be more familiar with its code name: Juno Beach. Luckily for me, my parents live in Courseulles, so this is where I grew up. Now a bustling seaside town set around around a picturesque harbour, many tourists visit Courseulles in the summer to enjoy its beach, markets and, of course, its delicious fish!

Courseulles-sur-mer ©S. Frères (2)
© S. Frères / Normandy Tourist Board

One Sunday morning, I set off with my dad to visit the fish market which takes place every morning on the Quai des Alliés. With about 20 fishing boats, you have lots of choice when it comes to buying seafood in Courseulles. You can practically buy your fish from the boat, for the fishermen sell their catch as soon as they come into the harbour.

bateau-peche-courseulles ©OT Courseulles.JPG
© Terres de Nacre

All year long, there is a great variety of fish and seafood to be found at the market – it all depends on the season and what fishermen have caught that day. You’ll be spoilt for choice between scallops, whelks, oysters,  crab, shrimps, mussels and white fish galore!

During the autumn and winter season, there is less fish but more seafood. This time of year is prime scallop season and if you are into food festivals, don’t miss the Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques (Scallops and Seafood Festival) on 25-26 November.

F+¬te de la Coquille (1)
© Terres de Nacre

If you are not into fish, you can also find oysters. There are oyster parks a mere two minutes away from the harbour at Aux régals de l’île, a business run by the Benoist family since 1955. This is where we order seafood platters for family get-togethers.

If you fancy sampling fish and seafood in style in Courseulles, most of the restaurants in town feature fresh local produce on the menu. La Crémaillère in particular boasts great sea views so be sure to stop off for a bite here; after all, what’s better than enjoying a fresh seafood platter while watching the sun go down over the sea?

History buffs can also visit the museum dedicated to the Canadian troops who landed at Courseulles on 6 June 1944 , the Juno Beach Center, which is well worth a visit.

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

Cover photo © L. Durand / Calvados Tourist Board | Writer: Sévérine Frères

Lobster in the Chausey Islands

On a gloriously sunny June afternoon, we set off en famille from the seaside port of Granville on the Jolie Vedette ferry service to the Chausey Islands  We were off for a few days’ well earned rest at the end of the school year to stay at the picturesque Hôtel du Fort et des Iles, the only hotel on the main island of Chausey,  the Grande Ile.

Having arranged trips here in the past for journalists and my Instagrammer buddy George the Explorer, I was intrigued to see first hand where the best lobster in Normandy is to be found. Having grown up a few miles from the heart of England, every time I see the sea, I get a childishly happy feeling and want to rush in and paddle, whatever the time of year. So the idea of all that sea on an island which is 7km long by 5km wide made me seriously giddy with delight!

Lobster3
© Hôtel du Fort et des Iles – Les Îles Chausey

I have to admit, I was not up early enough to catch sight of the fishermen bringing in the lobster pots, but I did take some photos! Lobster fishing in and around the Chausey archipelago is a long-held tradition and the perilous waters and rocky inlets around the 365 islands at low tide and 52 at high tide, are perfect for lobsters to breed. The blue lobster, known locally as Chausey lobster, is a beautiful indigo colour and a paragon of natural design.

Lobster5
© Hôtel du Fort et des Iles – Les Îles Chausey

The Hôtel du Fort et des Iles restaurant offers a special five-course menu with foie gras to start and baked lobster with a rich sauce at 79 euros. This was my holiday treat. I tucked in cheerfully while my husband looked on enviously. I did however graciously share a claw plus a glass or two of white Burgundy. You can also opt for a half lobster with baked potato and salad on the lunchtime menu at a reasonably priced 24 euros.

Lobster4
© Hôtel du Fort et des Iles – Les Îles Chausey

Once the day-trippers have left, the island comes into its own and you can set off to explore the fort and the beaches. As a nature reserve, there is oodles of wildlife to see and the local guide can take you on a trip to meet the local flora and fauna.

7240-Chausey parc à huitres bateau ©georgetheexplorer – CRT Normandie-© georgetheexplorer – CRT Normandie
© George the Explorer

Another option is to join Franck Voidie on his yacht at Granville marina and set sail for Chausey on a half-day cruise with gourmet picnic included. Here is a taster of Franck the skipper in action in this video with some excellent shots of the archipelago and a few words of French, bien sûr: 

Capture2.PNG
© YouTube / Voidie Voile

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

Cover photo: © George the Explorer | Writer: Alison Weatherhead

5 food festivals to feast on this autumn

Normandy is a food lover’s paradise, particularly in autumn, so why not hop across the Channel and visit some of the foodie festivals taking place across the region? From cheese and seafood to the iconic apple, here is our pick of 5 Norman festivals not to be missed this year:

1) 17-18 September: Fête du Fromage (Neufchâtel-en-Bray)

Neufchâtel is the oldest of Normandy’s four cheeses and is easy to identify – it’s the heart-shaped one! Legend has it that during the Hundred Years War between France and England, Norman girls would give English soldiers Neufchâtel as a token of their affection. To celebrate their rich, creamy cheese, the town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, 45 minutes inland from the port of Dieppe, created its very own cheese festival. The event makes for a fun day out where the family can pick up Neufchâtel recipes, go for a tasting or two, buy local products at the market and enjoy entertainment galore. There will also be a Neufchâtel‑themed evening meal followed by music and dancing.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/NeufchatelFeteDuFromage (French)

Heart-shaped Camembert Cheese
© Hemis Corbis / Fotolia

2) 20-22 October: Festival Mange Ta Soupe! (Carentan)

The French truly have a festival for most types of food, and Mange ta soupe! [Eat your soup!] festival is surely proof of that. Situated in Carentan, an hour’s drive from the port of Cherbourg, this festival has got soup enjoyment down to a fine art. Boasting a soup bar, cooking lessons, local producers’ market, car boot sale, book fair, live music, fireworks display and the all‑important soup contest, this festival will give you a warm feeling inside.

For more information, visit: www.mangetasoupe.eu (French)

ff
© Festival Mange ta Soupe !

3) 28-29 October: Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques et des Fruits de Mer (Villers‑sur‑Mer) 

Seafood fans won’t want to miss Viller-sur-Mer’s annual Scallop and Seafood Festival, which takes place a mere 20-minute drive along the coast east of Ouistreham. Enjoy a day at the seaside with a difference, tasting and learning about seafood, in particular the town’s renowned coquilles Saint-Jacques [scallops] from the region’s leading chefs. Stroll through market stalls run by local fishermen selling their wares, listen to live music and entertainment for all the family, and pick up tasty local products to take home.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/VillersFeteDeLaCoquilleSaintJacques

IMG_4447
© Normandy Tourist Board

4) 11 November: Foire aux Harengs (Lieurey)

An hour’s drive inland from the port of Le Havre, Lieurey welcomes 10,000 visitors each year to its popular herring fair. This tradition dates back to the 15th century when merchants delivering herrings to soldiers stopped in the village during a snowstorm, and decided to sell the fish to the villagers so it wouldn’t go to waste. Every year, horse‑drawn carriages bring kilos of herring to Lieurey to commemorate what happened centuries ago. Activities include a herring contest, stalls selling herring‑themed treats, cooking demonstrations, family rides in a horse-drawn carriage and pony rides for the children.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/LieureyFoireAuxHarengs (French)

ff
© Mairie de Lieurey

5) 11-12 November: Fête du cidre à l’ancienne (Le Sap)

An hour south of Ouistreham, the village of Le Sap’s annual cider festival celebrates the ancient art of cider making and the traditional practice of using a working horse to power the apple press, demonstrations of which take place at regular times over the two days. There’s a great atmosphere, with music, dancing, pony rides for the children, and market stalls selling local products. In addition to your freshly pressed cider, you can also enjoy a baguette with your favourite Norman cheese or an apple tart.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/LeSapFeteDuCidre

IMG_6019.JPG
© Normandy Tourist Board

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

Cover photo: © Philipimage / Fotolia.com | Writer: Fran Lambert

A lesson on Livarot

Exactly 15km from its famous cousin Camembert, the village of Livarot has its own star: the Livarot cheese, which celebrates its 107th birthday this year.

Although Livarot is situated in the département of Calvados, oddly enough it was a farmer from the Orne, named Eugène Graindorge, who made the first Livarot cheese in 1910. The story goes that he started to develop his business by collecting milk and cheese from his neighbours and maturing them in the small village of Livarot. Later, his son Bernard helped expand the Graindorge dairy so much between 1940 and 1980 that Livarot cheese started to appear on the menu in Parisian restaurants. Nowadays, Eugène’s grandson is in charge of the Graindorge Family Dairy and still makes cheese that has been granted Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) status.

Foire aux fromages à Livarot.
© Thierry Houyel

Now, you probably already know that French people love and respect their cheeses. But did you know that Livarot is nicknamed the Colonel Cheese?

I know what you’re thinking: Don’t make such a big deal out of it, it’s just cheese! (or should I say n’en fais pas tout un fromage!) But this nickname in fact comes from the initial way in which this cheese was made.

You may have noticed the ridges on the sides of this orange cheese. These are prints made by the sedge leaves (usually three or five) used to hold the cheese together during the maturing process and maintain its shape. And that’s why the French call Livarot cheese the Colonel – its markings look like the stripes on a military uniform!

1209-Livarot Graindorge (c)Graindorge-(c)Graindorge.jpg
© Graindorge
CALVADOS-FROMAGE-LIVAROT-AOC-GASTRONOMIE-09002-CALVADOS-TOURISME-libre.JPG
© Calvados Tourisme

If you want to enjoy a good AOC Livarot cheese, I really recommend that you go to the Livarot Cheese Fair. This year’s event takes place this weekend on 5 and 6 August, and it’s well worth a visit. Last year, I was lucky enough to go, and let me tell you, I never tired of walking through the picturesque village streets, enjoying the aromas of cheese, cider and grilled meat! Luckily, it’s not an option to refuse free samples from local producers (after all, I don’t want to be rude), especially when those samples are French cheese!

ddd

The Livarot Cheese Fair typically starts with everyone having a drink together, followed by cookery lessons using Norman cheeses (you can find a nice recipe below). This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fair, and to celebrate the occasion, there will be a parade, complete with brass band. There will also be the famous Livarot eating contest on Sunday morning, surely my favourite bit of the fair! The goal is to eat a 750g Livarot cheese as quickly as possible. The record, set in 2012, is 1 minute and 51 seconds. If you’re at the fair this weekend, why not give it a go?

1204-Livarot Graindorge 2 055 (c)Eric Lorang-(c)Eric Lorang
© Eric Lorang

With so much food for thought, you won’t be leaving the Livarot Cheese Fair empty-handed, so here’s one of my favourite easy cheesey recipes for you to try with your own Livarot:

Egg cocotte with Livarot and pumpkin

Ingredients

  • 100g Livarot cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 20cl single cream
  • 100g diced pumpkin
  • 1 packet of lardons
  • nutmeg
  • butter (for greasing)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Dice the pumpkin and boil in 20cl salted water
  • Once cooked, drain half of the liquid and mix the diced pumpkin and the single cream into the remaining liquid
  • Preheat oven to 150°C
  • Fry up the lardons
  • Grease four ramekin dishes (or similar) with butter
  • Pour the pumpkin and cream mixture into the ramekins
  • Add the fried lardons and nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper (bearing in mind that the lardons are salty)
  • Break an egg into each ramekin and add the diced Livarot (no rind)
  • Place the four ramekin dishes in a shallow pan of warm water (a bain-marie) and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes
shutterstock_172050680.jpg
© Shutterstock

The Graindorge Family Dairy is open Monday to Saturday from January to October (for exact times, refer to the Graindorge website) and runs guided tours and tastings for €3.30 per person.

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

Cover photo: © E. Graindorge | Writer: Marie Buchet

Made in the Manche – 10 treats to try

The Manche département of Normandy is home to a great many artisan food and drink producers who each make and sell delicious specialties à la Manchoise. Here are 10 treats to try when visiting this picturesque part of Normandy!

1) Biscuits from Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Inspired by the wartime history of the town, well-known shop Le Biscuit de Saint-Mère-Église produces a wide range of biscuits with names like little paratroopers, goblin delights, Sainte-Mère biscuits and Normandy shortcakes. For those with a super sweet tooth, they also make their own chocolates. Pop in and watch the biscuitiers at work in the kitchen!

Le_biscuit_de_Sainte_Mere_Eglise©PY_LeMeur (5).jpg
© Le Biscuit de Sainte-Mère-Église

2) Jam from Bréhal

Jam and biscuit shop Les Délices de Camille, the brainchild of Nadia Legendre, is a range of mouth-watering sweet treats available in a number of unlikely but delicious flavour combinations, such as confiture de bisous [kiss-flavoured jam] – a fusion of strawberry, apple and rose – perfect on a croissant in the morning!

3) Brioche from Le Vast

In the village of Le Vast in the pretty Saire Valley, the La Brioche du Vast bakery has a café where you can enjoy the delicious smell of fresh bread waft from the kitchen before savouring one of the bakery’s famous brioches, washed down with a refreshing bowl of local cider.

La Brioche du Vast - juin 2016 (6).jpg
© La Brioche du Vast

4) Camembert from Lessay

The Val d’Ay cheese factory was originally founded by Théodore Réaux back in 1931, and alongside staple products like butter, and cream, it has been producing legendary Réo Camembert AOP, ever since. Made with unpasteurised milk and moulded by ladle in the traditional way, this rich, creamy cheese has won many awards, and you simply can’t visit the Manche without trying it!

shutterstock_607323149
© Shutterstock

5) Caramels from the Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel

In 2009, dairy farmers Sylvie and Andre launched their organic caramel business, Cara-Meuh, not far from the famous UNESCO-listed Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel. Hovering halfway between fudge and toffee, Norman caramel is twice as nice, as it is made using milk rather than sugar as the main ingredient. There’s a flavour for everyone, from plain, salted, chocolate and nut to apple and even calvados!

Vains_Cara-Meuh_découpe des cara-meuh non
© Cara-Meuh

6) Goat’s cheese from Liesville-sur-Douve

Hervé and Véronique Lefort of the Huberdière goat farm pamper their 150 goats to produce the best milk for the very best goat’s cheese. Whether it’s plain or flavoured with pepper, herbs, garlic, poppyseeds or fig (yum), there’s bound to be a cheese you’ll love. Find out about how goat’s cheese is made, taste a few cheese varieties, and if you happen to be around at 5:30pm, you may even get to help with the milking.

Liesville sur Douve_Chèvrerie de la Huberdière_1.JPG
© Chèvrerie de la Huberdière

7) Onion sausages from Belval-Gare

For over 20 years, Gilles Villain et Madame Dulin have run their traditional butchers shop and produced the signature onion sausages for which it is now famous. A delicacy enjoyed throughout the Manche département and beyond, be sure to stop off here and stock up on some award-winning sausages!

shutterstock_529026928.jpg
© Shutterstock

8) Normandy caramel sauce from Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte

Known in Normandy as confiture de lait, this thick caramel sauce is a regional favourite and is typically used as a condiment or spread for bread or pastries. Those with a sweet tooth will love visiting the Lait Douceur de Normandie shop and try their delicious range of confiture de lait, jams and chutneys made with seasonal fruit and veg, boiled sweets and chocolate, the list goes on… Not just a shop, Lait Douceur de Normandie also offers guided tours, tastings and sweet-making classes for the whole family.

Confiture de lait©Lair Douceur de Normandie (2).jpg
© Lait Douceur de Normandie

9) Cider from Sotteville

The family-run Théo Capelle distillery on the Cotentin peninsula produces a wide range of aperitifs (including Pommeau de Normandie), ciders, calvados, fruit juices and jams. Enjoy a family visit to the distillery, complete with video screening, tour of the cellars and product tasting, make the most of the farm’s extensive grounds with a picnic under the apple trees, and meet the farm’s resident donkeys, Jasmine and Ficelle.

Theo Capelle©P.Escudero
© Cidererie-Distillerie Théo Capelle

10) Ham from Marigny

Founded 20 years ago by Marcel Helaine and named after Normandy’s distinctive hedgerow landscape, the Norman ham known as Jambons de Bocage is made the traditional way, namely smoked on a wood fire. Today, Marcel’s son Nicolas produces other traditional products such as handmade Vire tripe sausage, Norman cervelas, smoked garlic sausage and black pudding – take your pick!

shutterstock_263703923.jpg
© Shutterstock

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

Cover photo © Lait Douceur de Normandie | Writer: Fran Lambert

 

Mad for madeleines

This weekend, France celebrates Saint Madeleine’s Day on 22 July. I should confess to having a particular soft spot for madeleines; not only do I love eating the melt-in-the mouth cakes but my teenage daughter is called Madeleine. This first name seemed an obvious choice for a little Brit born and growing up in France as it was understood on both sides of the Channel… but back to the cakes! Legend has it that a certain ‘madeleine’ made the very first of the said cakes for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and she used a scallop shell mould, the symbol of the route, to give the madeleines the distinctive shape they have to this day.

 

Normandy boasts its very own madeleine producer, the Biscuiterie Jeanette 1850. Based just east of Caen in Démouville, this company has been making biscuits since 1850 and, like most businesses, has had its ups and downs over the years. In 2015, the workforce together with the financial backing of a local entrepreneur Georges Viana, determinedly fought off bankruptcy  to save its 150 years of traditional savoir-faire. The new company is now going strong and is a real local success story. One of the main reasons for this is their supremely yummy madeleines, which combine the traditional cake with quirkily modern flavours such as almond, chocolate, pistachio and citrus fruits. A luxury range of madeleines, created for Jeanette by the master chef, Philippe Parc, comes in flavours like Damas rose, Asian citrus fruits, chocolate with pistachio, rapsberry, mandarine and vanilla, and a range of organic madeleines is new for 2017. And now I have whet your taste buds, would you like to know where to get hold of these madeleines?

  • Visitors to the Jeanette factory can take full advantage of its shop, which is open on weekday afternoons from 1pm to 6pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm
  • Elsewhere in France, Jeannette madeleines can be found in many outlets across Normandy and in the surrounding areas
  • Outside France, madeleine enthusiasts can get their fill by ordering via the Jeannette mail order service (shipping overseas is possible on request)

Vistaprint Jeannette_00040 XS ©BiscuiterieJeannette1850.jpg

Now for a little cultural history with a madeleine moment. Marcel Proust, the author of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, sets a key scene in the novel around the sensory experience of eating the madeleine and drinking the tea offered by his aunt, which makes the narrator go back to his childhood memories. Room 414 on the 4th floor of the sumptous Grand Hôtel in Cabourg was Proust’s summer home for seven summers in a row from 1907, where he retreated to Normandy from the heat and hubbub of the capital. It is here that he is said to have written much of the A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. If you would like to sip tea and nibble on madeleines like Proust’s character, why not treat yourself to a few days in the Grand Hôtel in the very room which inspired the novelist? Situated on the promenade, the Grand Hôtel is a wonderful place to stay, combining five-star glamour with the informality of a family-friendly,  seaside hotel. The Sunday buffet lunch is a banquet fit for a king with its seafood spread being the highlight for me, together with the tinkling musical accompaniment from the regular pianist on the resident baby grand.

6913-Grand hotel de Cabourg -® L. Leloup CRT Normandie --® L. Leloup CRT Normandie .jpg
© L. Leloup / Normandy Tourist Board
Chambre Marcel Proust © Grand Hôtel Cabourg.jpg
© Grand Hôtel Cabourg

Finally, here is a short video which shows you how to make your very own madeleines if you would like to celebrate in spirit with me and my daughter this weekend: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOIiR_zYbEc

Untitled
© YouTube / Gourmandize UK & Ireland

jeannette ©BiscuiterieJeannette1850

And if your madeleines are a storming success, why not enter the amateur madeleine baking competition held in Cabourg this September at the tea room La Maison Dupont avec Thé?

Bon appétit et bonne fête Madeleine !

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

norm2 - Copy

All photos © Biscuiterie Jeannette 1850 unless otherwise stated | Writer: Alison Weatherhead