Each of our excursions to foreign soil invariably comes with a list of all the things that must be seen, and in our case, that must be eaten as well! Food is forever entwined in our travel experiences and it just adds another dimension to our memories.
There are many things that have featured on our obligatory “must consume” lists and to pick just a few is akin to torture. Actually, come to think of it I know this is not going to be the last you hear of this…! But taking that first bite step always helps…
This lovely ‘pizza’ has its origins in Nice, in the south of France. The base is slightly ticker than that of a pizza and it is topped with caramelised onions, anchovies and olives. I always wanted to taste it, but could never quite imagine what the flavour would be like. I waited until we reached the beautiful little city of Narbonne and scoffed my first slice in Les Halles de Narbonne. It was amazing! I never knew onions could be so sweet. The salty anchovies and bitter olives beautifully complements the almost jam-like onions. YUM! After that holiday, it was the first thing we made when we were back home!
This is another one that I wanted to try in France. This is probably not to everyone’s’ taste. It is a meat dish made from finely chopped raw beef, served with onions and capers, with a raw egg yolk to top it off. Coincidently, I also had this in Narbonne, in a little restaurant opposite the market. I awaited my order with trepidation. I do eat beef carpaccio and have my steaks medium rare, but I was not sure just how my body would react. Turns out, my body loves it! You can really taste the flavour of the meat if you have it in this way. And the egg yolk (which was probably what I was most afraid of!) just melts away in the background and just gives a silky taste to the dish. Loved it!
Perhaps not as sophisticated as a beef tartare, but I really wanted to try this British speciality. A scotch egg is made up from a hard-boiled egg, around which a layer of sausage meat is formed into a ball shape. The ball is then coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. After a morning exploring London, we stopped over at Borough Market, where stalls are spread out under high railway lines. We ordered our scotch egg with some sweet potato fries and plonked down on the grass next to Southwark Cathedral. The scotch egg tastes exactly as you think it would; egg and sausage with a crispy crumb. But if you are tired after walking about the whole morning, just the thing to give you energy for the next stretch.
This was not something on our must have list as, to be honest. However, when we arrived in Paris we saw men pushing shopping trolleys around, containing a drum, in which they seemingly made fire, topped with a large round disk. On top, warming up, was snails… or what looked like snails from afar… if you use your imagination. (Or maybe we were just really tired from our journey there!) Eventually we realised that we were actually looking at chestnuts roasting. It has a lovely buttery taste with a touch of smoke from the fire; the perfect snack for a blustery, chilly day in Paris.
I suppose frites (chips) is chips is chips. But in Amsterdam you get them with so many sauces! My heading should probably be “Sauce in Amsterdam, with frites”. (As if anyone really needs an excuse to eat more starch. Sigh) There is the lovely thick mayonnaise which is always a winner, and I also enjoy mixing some tomato sauce with mayonnaise. Tartar sauce, chilli sauce, garlic mayonnaise… but my favourite is the stoofvlees (stewed meat) sauce. Delicious! Also, Amsterdam was a real explosion of people, sights and sounds to me… I have not seen anything like it. So it was better to constantly walk around nibbling a chip or two for fear that my mouth would just hang open in wonderment all the time.
The first time we went to France we took a day-trip from Paris to the Champagne region. We visited Épernay, home to Moët & Chandon and Reims, home to G. H. Mumm & Cie. The cellar tours were amazing; seemingly endless tunnels under ground filled with bottles and bottles of sparkly goodness. The history and the craft… really special. We were lucky enough to do champagne tasting at both these wonderful producers (because let’s face it, this is not something I can afford to buy everyday… or even every year) so to say that I sipped on champagne in Champagne is definitely a highlight.
… to be continued … until we eat again!