dans le sac

Bonjour tout le monde! How are you this Monday? I can't complain - although cold, the sun is trying to shine and I have a warm cup of chicory root tea beside me... I have been thinking about starting this blog series for a while now - my concerted efforts to branch out and experiment with more traditional french eating and make the most of the remaining two months we will live here and have absolutely glorious fresh produce markets to visit twice weekly. I hope to share with you my market-buys and a couple of french-inspired recipes.

The french way of shopping is to buy less, more often - fresh and seasonal - its also the done thing (at least among the older frenchmen and women) to carry your shopping home in a basket. I bought this beautiful hand-woven basket few weeks ago at the market  - there is a section of rotating stalls with various goods that come once or twice a year. It is made in north africa and woven from palm leaves. I was attracted to how generous it was, strong, sturdy, comfortable... and the potential for carrying tiny swaddled-moses-like-babies too...

dans le sac / in the bag:

. pissenlit (dandelion) -  a real delicacy here! these only appear for sale right at the beginning of Spring and come from a nearby farm - though I daresay you could forage your own easily enough!
. poireux (leeks)
. endives (endives)
. avocat (avocado)
. lait frais (fresh milk) - the most common way to drink milk here is in the form of UHT-treated long-life milk, so its a real treat to buy lovely fresh milk from Normady from the market cheese man
. oeufs pleine air (free-range eggs)
. beurre doux (unsalted butter)
. sardines (sardines) - I love that even cheap sardines come in beautiful tins 
. tomates cerises (cherry tomatoes)
. pain campalliou (olive oil bread) - a specialty of one of our local bakeries, a rustic-country style semi-. sourdough with olive oil - is delightfully crusty on the outside and soft and billowy in the middle.
. laitue de jardin (garden-grown lettuce)

~ Rillettes de sardine ~ 
(sardine dip in raw endive boats)
for 4 personnes

1 tin of sardines (about 70g)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or double cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste

Tip out sardines in a mixing bowl. Mash well with a fork (or blend if you prefer a very smooth consistency). Combine all other ingredients in with the sardines and mix well. Spoon into raw endive leaves and top with whatever you like - I love the combination of slices of avocado, chopped cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. This dip is also SO very good the simple, french way - with a baguette of course!

~  Soupe aux poireaux et pissenlit ~ (dandelion + leek soup)
for 4 personnes

2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, or 4 medium sized ones
150g fresh young dandelion leaves, washed thoroughly
(you can use older leaves, but they have a stronger/bitter flavour)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup roughly chopped parsley

Slice the white of leeks and begin to sauté with butter in a pot. When the leeks are soft add in dandelion leaves and stir for a few minutes to wilt. Add in broth and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 20 minutes - add more broth or water if you need it - this should be a thin soup. Stir in parsley and blend until smooth. Salt & pepper to salt. Serve hot with greek yoghurt, creme fraiche and a sprinkle of parsley or fresh chives.... and crusty bread.