Rural Normandy in September is a very agreeable Autumn travel destination. Staying with ex pat friends just outside the village of Percy the temperature was still comfortably in the mid 20’s, and that extra hour of daylight let us stretch our summer out just that little bit longer. Local produce is in abundance and a main feature of any trip to France is always the lovely fresh food and good French wine enjoyed around the dinner table in the evenings. In England people are already putting on their heating and settling in to weeks of X factor on TV while eating a dine in for 2 M&S meal.
Here in Normandy we can still have an outdoor barbecue while eating sausages of impressive dimensions and enjoying real French bread and potatoes freshly dug up from the garden. We also had Merguez sausage which is a red spicy number, originating from North African cuisine but also very popular in France. Even the tomatoes are more exotic than the tasteless supermarket offerings we have at home in the UK. There are large curvy pineapple tomatoes and the exotic dark Zulu tomatoes. They would definitely run into trouble with the PC brigade back home.
The Zulus are coming
An afternoon walk along the river bank in the Vallee de la Vire had yielded a host of hedgerow fruits including some very ripe elderberries and swathes of dark sweet blackberries. Mixed with some other red currants and berry delights from the garden they were constructed into a very English dessert – a gigantic crumble which I can assure you goes extremely well with luxurious Normandy creme fraiche crue (un-pasteurised soured cream). The whole experience was complemented by a delicious silver medal Rose from the Loire Valley which was only 3 euros from Carrefour – yum!
Hedgerow berry selection
Normandy has a number of gastronomic highlights. It is famous for its savoury crepes known as ‘Gallette’ which can have ham and cheese in them but must have an egg in there somewhere as well. Then, as we are deep in apple country we have of course Normandy cider and its more potent apple relation Calvados – the very delicious apple brandy.
Fantastic French sticks
Down the road is a cheese factory making the famous French President cheese. A lesser known Normandy delicacy is Teurgoule a type of rice pudding which is a real family dish. It is flavoured with cinnamon, sometimes nutmeg and baked in an earthenware terrine for several hours which gives it a thick caramel crust. Teurgoule means ‘twist mouth’ which may refer to the spiciness of the dish and there is even an annual Teurgoule cooking competition which has its own brotherhood. The brotherhood keep the official secret recipe. A bit like the rice pudding branch of the Masons. Later we headed down to the chicken coup to see if there were any eggs for us. The three chickens are are called after various local characters. Maxine is the bossy leader (after an assertive ex pat client), big Debbie the one with a weight issue and Emily is a bit stuck up apparently. Maxine enjoys an occasional hen massage.