Cooking in France
1 saucepan + 1 gas burner + 1 vegetarian + 2 omnivores (1 very much on the carni- side of omnivore) = very simple one-pot cooking in the campsite at night. It’s not difficult to do with a small store of non-perishable picnic basket perennials – olive oil, harissa paste, sherry vinegar, grainy mustard, Maldon salt and the tiniest pepper grinder – and a few purchases from the local market and shops, including garlic and onions, sun-warmed tomatoes, the sweetest of sweet peppers, a selection of cheese, pâté and salami (to keep the meat-lovers happy), les oeufs biologique (organic eggs) and a few tins of haricot beans and lentils.
All suppers started with chopped onions softening in the pan, the Husband balancing and stirring, while I chopped garlic to cook next and decided what was on the menu tonight. Sometimes it was a tomato and lentil stew, other nights we had creamy haricot beans with crème fraîche, Pipérade (scrambled eggs in a stew of peppers and tomatoes) or a tomato bean dish, sprinkled with crumbled feta. We also ate salads of parsley-flecked Tabouleh, laden with chopped tomatoes and diced cucumber; plates of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella with fleur de sel; bunches of radishes, dabbed with butter and sprinked with flakes of Maldon salt; and raw milk Camembert, smeared on ragged chunks of baguette.
There was nothing that took longer than 15 minutes to prepare while hunkered down on our picnic rug in the late evening sunshine, still salted from an afternoon on the beach, drinking our latest bottle of vin de pays. Vegetables that had never encountered a fridge tasted sweeter than normal, especially after they spent an afternoon under canvas, awaiting my knife. But then, it’s the holidays – everything tastes magical when eaten in good company with the flavour of the outdoors, spiced with the relish of ridiculously cheap wine and mopped up with crusty bread from the local boulanger. It’s a far cry from a rainy Monday in North Cork.