Don’t get me wrong, I love living in our little village. But given the chance of a trip to Paris with all the buzz, bustle, shops and restaurants and I’ll bite your hand off to go. And go I did with my good friend Neil on the pretext of accompanying him to Maison et Objet, a huge trade fair where he was on a buying trip to stock his treasure trove of a shop in Wells next the sea. But that’s another story. I pitched up in the Marais on the Friday afternoon and after dumping my bags at our charming chambre d’hote http://www.bonne-nuit-paris.com/ we dived straight into Genin http://jacquesgenin.fr/ , a patisserie where they serve the richest hot chocolate in the world. And it would have been rude not to taste a cake or two. Their gateau St Honore is a perfect statement of the patissiers art. A rectangle of the crispest puff pastry topped with three tiny choux buns filled in turn with vanilla, chocolate and caramel custard topped with dark and milk chocolate and crisp caramel and finished with a flourish of vanilla flecked cream. To give us an appetite for supper we popped into Merci which is a charity shop like no other. If you are looking for bargains turn away now but if browsing is your pleasure then step inside. Try the exquisite perfumes, rummage through the racks of designer clothes, trail through the homeware department full of objects of beauty you never knew you needed or just do a bit of people watching in their cafe surrounded by floor to ceiling racks of old books.
Supper was at Au Bascou,http://www.au-bascou.fr/ a friendly neighbourhood restaurant serving Basque style food which was within striding distance of our chambre d’hote. It’s not a showy place on the outside but the interior is as warm and welcoming as the staff. There’s a short printed menu plus a good selection of chalkboard specials- always a good sign. This isn’t fancy-pants food, but hearty stuff for the properly hungry(that’s me- always) As I decided to go for pheasant with lardons and cabbage for main I thought I’d better choose something lighter for starters. It was billed as a salad which I was a bit scared of as I find it tiring chomping my way through too many leaves but I needn’t have worried. Three little gem leaves were filled with beetroot batons, crème fraiche flavoured with horseradish and slivers of smoked herring. A good scattering of chives, a drizzle of good oil and lemon juice and the result was a brilliant dish that was somehow much more than the sum of its parts. Of course I had to try it again when I got home and here is my version which I reckon makes a pretty perfect winter starter.
Smoked herring and beetroot salad
2 little gem lettuces
2 small cooked beetroots, not in vinegar
200g crème fraiche
1 tbsp hot horseradish
2 tsp lemon juice
200g smoked herring fillets
chives, olive oil and lemon juice to finish
Separate the lettuce leaves and arrange three on each plate. Peel the beetroots and cut into tiny batons. Spoon onto the leaves. Mi the crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice, salt and pepper and spoon over the beetroot. Cut the herring into small slices and put on top of the crème fraiche. Snip the chives finely and scatter over each plate. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil and serve with crusty bread.