I ought to rephrase the title of this post because there is no such thing as a quick trip to Brittany. Set in the far north western corner of France, there is never a quick route to visit our family and a train journey from Zurich typically takes 12 hours door to door. And making this trip with an 11-month old baby somehow feels twice as long. But the trip is always worthwhile for the good, home-cooked food that eventually awaits us at the end of a long journey.
My great-aunt’s cheese soufflé is a particular favourite of mine. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients – eggs, milk and cheese – it makes for a spectacular meal, especially since her soufflé always rises magnificently each time. The same can’t be said about many of my own soufflés; they never rise so triumphantly, nor can I manage to get it to cook properly without stabbing it a few times to see if it has set, thus explaining why my soufflés tend to be a bit deflated, much like my pride on such occasions. My great-aunt has shared her recipe with me so I must make it my mission in the coming winter months to master this French classic.
My mother-in-law makes a lovely apple cake using the apples which are grown in abundance on their small farm. The cake is rich with apple, held together by a light batter. It looks simple enough but I have to confess that I haven’t had much luck recreating the same recipe at home. Perhaps my cake tin is too big or I am overworking the batter? Or, more likely, my French isn’t quite up to scratch and I have mis-translated her recipe. For now, I’m happy to indulge in this Apple Crumble Tea Cake.
Chouquettes are also a common treat at dessert. My mother-in-law prefers to buy hers from the local bakery for a stress-free option, but she will always serve them with some freshly whipped cream and homemade jam on the side. If you are not lucky enough to have a bakery nearby which sells freshly baked chouquettes, they are relatively easy to make at home, and these Chocolate Chip Chouquettes are hard to pass up.
And a dish which I frequently look forward to when in France is confit de canard, a dish comprising of duck legs slow-cooked in duck fat until meltingly tender, and served simply with either roast or boiled potatoes and a green salad on the side. Duck, when cooked confit, takes on a different texture and taste to duck which has been roasted; the meat is more succulent and flavoursome, and it should fall apart at the mere prod of a fork. Now that I have discovered duck fat at my local grocer, I can’t wait to experiment with a few recipes at home. If anyone has a favourite recipe for duck confit, I would love to hear from you!
If you are a collector of vintage kitchenware, especially vintage French crockery, this brocante or antique store in Paimpol is stocked floor to ceiling (literally) with a beautiful and diverse collection that will tempt your purse strings. Plates, footed bowls, casserole pots, soup tureens, spice jars, vintage linen and the like can be found in this cluttered, but charming, shop. In fact, when we last visited, the shop itself and all of its inventory were for sale …
I first visited the store in 2011 and mentioned it in this post. It is a food prop paradise but, realistically, their fragile crockery is not the most practical souvenir if you are travelling from afar. Not that that has ever stopped me … I’ve managed to collect a few pieces on each of our subsequent trips to Brittany but I fear this hobby might have to come to an end as our own kitchen could be described as a mirror image of this shop. Although, I haven’t yet resorted to using the floor as a place to stack kitchenware, so there might still be room for a few more soup tureens
Shops like this one are a rare and treasured find. Their existence provides a nostalgic charm to the vicinity and serve as a historical timekeeper of a bygone era, much like how a museum would preserve relics of the past. But I would choose to go to a brocante like this one over a museum any day.
You can find the shop here:
Pratique Brocante “L’Émotion du Passé”
10 rue des Huit-Patriotes
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