A France-shaped cheese in Lyon

Can’t beat a descriptive title.

I was in Lyon last weekend with my friend Anne. She knows that I’m really into my food, and that it was the first time I’d visited the city (in 16 years of living in France, shame on me). So she took me to Les Halles, the city’s indoor market, filled with 48 different food stalls, many selling regional produce, including a France-shaped goats cheese.

This particular Halles (the name given to covered food markets in France) is associated with Paul Bocuse, a multi-Michelin starred chef from the region. I’m not sure why to be honest, whether he financed the total refurb 2 years ago, or if it’s just an advertising deal. In any case, it gives quite a high-level feel to the market’s image, confirmed by the quality of the produce.

We bought a Saucisson brioché for lunch. As the name suggests, this is a cooked sausage in a brioche casing. Sounds bizarre but is delicious. I was unable to resist the quenelles, so I bought 2 types, plain and with morel mushrooms.

Quenelles are a traditional dish from Lyon, kind of like elegant dumplings made from a flour or semolina mixture and often some kind of fish (the traditional recipe uses pike). I had them for tea this week, heated in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and served with some green beans. They came out of the oven very light and fluffy and had lots of flavour.

Next stop was the bakery stall to buy a tarte à la praline. This is also regional speciality, basically a short crust pastry with cream and pralines. The one we bought was much thinner than usual (see picture) with a very fine, nutty base containing brown sugar.

It was one of those markets I love, which attracts groups of families and friends to the bars and oyster stalls for a lunchtime glass of wine. There was a huge amount of atmosphere, and that inimitable French mix of adults chatting and laughing amongst themselves while their children occupied themselves nearby.

I don’t think many French people realise it, because it’s so ingrained in their culture, but this Sunday-morning experience is what makes France such a great place: a glass of wine or two and a plate of oysters, shared with friends and family, over a random discussion about the day’s news. That’s what living is about.

Julhès deli (Paris 10)

Was in Julhès (54, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010) on Saturday doing the weekly-ish deli shop. ‘Deli’ doesn’t really do it justice though – I’d call it more a purveyor of traditional and France-produced delicacies (also because I’m in PR).

Said weekly shop usually consists of cheese, some form of cured ham or saucisson, and yoghurts produced by an independent French dairy. The latter have that inimitable sour taste you rarely get with industrial stuff (even though I also buy various Danone products by the vat).

There’s a brilliant selection of wines too, and a sommelier on hand to advise (although he’s your stereotypical mardy Frenchman who can bring down even the most enthusiastic Saturday morning shopper).

Despite the sommelier the place has that unique power whereby you instantly want to remortgage your house so you can buy everything in there. Thankfully I have resisted so far.

Filet mignon with sage

On the barby.

I never would have considered cooking filet mignon of pork in this way until a friend suggested it for my 40th. That time I’d been looking for something tasty and a bit original for a big group and had been really pleased with the result (I wasn’t the cook on either occasion I might add).

So here we are in the Lot (near Cahors, south of the Dordogne). The filet mignon just has a bit of oil and salt and then a sprig of sage from the garden. For someone who  rarely manages to find decent sage, snipping a few leaves off a nearby plant in the garden feels great. And they are everywhere here just growing randomly (see here at the edge of the garden with plum and fig tree behind):

It made a real difference to the flavour of the pork too.