We are having the most wonderful summer at the moment and I for one am extremely happy >with this. I am one of those people who simply dislikes cold weather so you never hear me complain when it is hot.
I love being in the garden, even though it is not a big garden, it is so lovely to sit and listen to the birds and simply relax among the shrubs and my herbs. Yes, I have a small patch of herbs that have done so well this year, I am amazed. That as you may guess is how good my gardening is – a little hit and miss affair!
With the weather being so hot we all want more fresh summer salads and French salads are very popular at the moment at Lovefrenchfood.com which comes as no surprise, they are truly fabulous. The French certainly know how to throw a few greens together and create a fabulous dish and I thank them for their creativity as salads are so healthy as well as being tasty.
Salads were not always like this. When I was a little girl, oh so many years ago, (I’m sighing!) a salad was simply a dish of lettuce, a few slices of cucumber and some tomato. If we had some radish and spring onions in the garden, these were included too. Salad made a very popular Sunday tea in those days using any meat left over from dinner. We are very lucky nowadays to have such a variety of salad greens all though unfortunately not anywhere near as good as in France, but a large improvement nonetheless. And they are finally coming to the conclusion that all these fresh fruits and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet are the best foods or our health and wellbeing.
There are of course many salads these days and you see various combinations of salads in almost every newspaper and magazine on almost a daily basis during the summer months. They seem to add a little of this or a little of that and give it a name and hey presto, you have a new salad. They are of course very good but all you need to do to achieve these salads is a little bit of imagination and use what fresh ingredients you have and put them together.
One of my favourite French salads is the Salad Lyonnais which as the name suggests comes from Lyon in the Rhone Valley region in France. Lyon is said to be France’s second city and has been a gateway between the north and south for centuries. It certainly does have a ‘brin du sud’, or a touch of the south and the sun seems to shine more often here than it does in the north. It is a very important city for banking, for the textile industry and indeed the pharmaceutical centre. However, to me, and I would guess, to many people it is more famous for its food. There are many food places ranging from the more simple bouchons or bistro’s to some of the much more opulent tables of France. Indeed it is said that the most successful bouchons and restaurants in Lyon were run by women who had at the turn of the century, worked as cooks for large bourgeois families who could no longer afford to employ them. Much of the food is very reasonably priced and indeed very cheap indeed in most bouchons. It is also very simple food but cooked much like home cooking and includes many pork dishes with soft cheeses and herbs.
Other dishes, some of which are made from offal such as andouille sausages, pigs blood sausages and dishes made from tripe are traditional and very popular. You will find the more upmarket restaurants serving foods such as fois gras but on the whole, the bouchons only serve simple, unpretentious foods at great prices. They are fantastic foods in fact, which is what simple foods are – quality ingredients, cooked simply and served simply. If you are on holiday in the area a good place to shop for your own produce is the fantastic food market in Lyons, the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse where you will find an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, chicken, and game. You will also want to try their famous cheeses and you can taste the creamy Saint Marcellins cheese which is very popular and is made from cows milk and so delicious.
If you need a glass of wine with your meal (and who doesn’t) there are some good wines from the area and of course the restaurants and bouchons will have the Beaujolais or the Côtes du Rhône. The Beaujolais wines are usually reds made from the Gamay grapes but the Côtes du Rhône may be from several grape varieties and could be white, red or rosé. This is just a glimpse into the city of Lyon as there really is so much to do and see here from the arts, museums, opera and of course shopping - if you enjoy strolling the cobbled streets and browsing the chic shops and boutiques it is paradise. If this is an area you would like to see and experience, you will find accommodation for a wonderful holiday with Frenchconnections.co.uk at prices for all pockets in this and all regions of France.
Now, back to Le Salade Lyonnaise! This is simply a dish of fresh salad leaves, traditionally frisée lettuce and pieces of bacon (yes,from the pig again!) and a lightly poached egg on the top. Some enjoy croutons with it as well as a dressing of oil, vinegar and mustard. Whether the croutons were actually in the original recipe I am not sure but no French housewife would have wasted any bread so my guess is that they were used in this way for filling you up and to avoid wasting food. I have include the croutons here, in fact they are an ingredient that are simply so tasty and easy to make. The salad can be served either as a starter or horsdoeuvre, or a light lunch. So the amount here will give you an idea as it is for 4 people as a starter.
- 4 fresh free range eggs
- 4 slices of bread with crusts removed and cut into cubes
- Olive oil for frying bread
- Half a clove of garlic
- ¼ cup/60mls olive oil
- 4 bacon rashers cut into strips
- 1/3 cup/80mls red wine vinegar
- 3 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
- 225g/8oz frisée lettuce/endive, dandelion leaves and lambs lettuce
Chop the garlic and fry in a little oil in a frying pan until it flavours the oil. Remove from the pan. Or you can simply rub a cut garlic clove around the pan before you fry the bread. Fry the bread cubes until crisp and golden. Remove and keep warm.
Place the bacon in the pan and cook for about two minutes. Add the vinegar and mustard and boil until it has reduced to about a third. Pour this over the salad leaves and toss a little.
Poaching the Eggs
Boil some water in a pan (just enough to cover the eggs) to which you have added about a tablespoon of vinegar. Allow to simmer. Crack each egg into a small bowl before sliding into the simmering water. Poach for about 3 minutes until just set – the yolk should be still slightly runny.
To serve, arrange the salad leaves with the bacon and mustard dressing on plates and place a poached egg on top of each. Sprinkle with the golden croutons.