Today we are heading out of France and into Italy! A bittersweet day as we are feeling rather attached to France having been here for almost 3 weeks. From Spain we made our way to Lyon. The center of Lyon is beautiful, full of cafes, restaurants and bars. We found a local bar that sold the cheapest Aperol Spritz in Europe (disclaimer: this fact may not be 100% true). We spent almost every night there enjoying the local life. It is much like Paris but set on the side of a hill with narrow cobblestone streets. We made our way out one evening for what was supposed to be a relaxed stroll through the old streets but managed to find the steepest and longest little road in Lyon turning it into a SWEAT1000/Killer Hill workout that we needed a lot of anti-inflammatory medication, and Aperol, to recover from. It was hard not to resent the little dog that run up the entire way in front of us while I puffed like a 90 year-old smoker.
The Les Halles Paul Bacouse market is one of the biggest indoor food markets in France, home to many a delicacy. We arrived with the idea of ‘just looking’ but we left with bags of produce, more specifically, pastries, petit fours and cakes. That was breakfast. The next resolution we have is to stop lying to ourselves. Throughout Spain we had come across Iberico ham but it was here that we found the most exquisite wine bar that offered three things Jamon Iberico, wine and cheese. It was an experience in itself to sample these products and the level of self-control it took to eventually walk away before we spent our entire life savings on a pig’s leg was extreme.
One of the things we have been missing the most is a proper egg and bacon breakfast. Since we left home, 6 weeks, we have only been able to have an egg breakfast twice in our apartment in Paris. On our trip to Annecy we decided to treat ourselves to a true French breakfast consisting of baguette, croissant, eggs and bacon, fresh orange juice and coffee. The waitress must have thought this was the first time we were seeing eggs as I think we had a slight over-reaction when the food came. Annecy is one of the most picturesque towns I have ever come across, centered around a massive lake looking out towards the mountains you probably can’t get any better. We took a paddle boat around Lake Annecy, to be fair Darren did most of the paddling and I did most of the sitting, but it was an experience of a lifetime.
Our last few days in France have been filled with highs and lows, well one low (Chicken Chicken, but I’ll get to that). Time on the French Riviera is always well spent! There is constantly a vibe running through the town and being able to explore the Old Town market was a stand out for us.
We were lucky enough to eat at Restaurant JAN, the only South African chef to hold a Michelin star. We were spoiled beyond our expectations and appreciated the individual effort from the kitchen team and the front of house staff to make our meal enjoyable. The food was fantastic, with the kitchen being run by head chef, South African, Kevin Grobler, we welcomed the familiarity of tastes like bobotie, which was a component in the lamb main course as well as melon, and rooibos in the scallop amuse bouche. My personal favourite dish was the cauliflower, lemon and fennel dessert. The taste combinations were unusual and exquisite. It was perfectly fresh for the blazing heat we experienced in Nice. Darren’s favourite was the tuna with cauliflower panacotta, onions and a caponata-like dressing. It is safe to say that JAN was our culinary highlight in France.
Unfortunately we have encountered one low light, and at this point it’s the culinary low light of the trip: Chicken Chicken. After arriving in Nice feeling like I could eat my left arm I had a craving for fresh roast chicken. We made our way down the side streets in search for food (we have noted that sometimes we act like we haven’t eaten in days, this is not the case, do not worry mom). Like a beacon of light the rotisserie chicken shop was almost enough to get us to salivate. Refusing to be demotivated when told the chickens were not ready we continued. We came across a place called Chicken Chicken, I was desperate so I told Darren with far too much confidence that it must be so nice they named it twice. I do take full responsibility for this decision. In hindsight, I think it is named twice because they were trying to convince people that it was indeed chicken being served and not little crumbed and deep- fried pebbles pulled out of the ocean. With that being said, we are still alive but I doubt I’ll be back there any time soon.
We have already admitted to ourselves that the next three weeks will consist of eating our weights worth in carbs, tiramisu and drinking too much. Darren would like to visit “Leaning Tower of Pizza” (Pisa…).
Because we’re going to be Italy we thought it would be appropriate to leave you all with a fresh pasta recipe to enjoy. We know it has been really cold there lately so we recommend making it into oxtail lasagna. Let us know if you make it and what you think we would love to hear your opinion.
Simple Fresh Pasta Recipe
15ml olive oil
- Make a well with the flour, inside the well put the beaten eggs and oil.
- Work with a fork until dough-like consistency forms.
- Knead the dough for roughly 5 minutes. It should be well combined but not too firm. Be careful not to overwork it as it will result in tough pasta.
- Leave in the fridge to rest for a minimum of 3 hours- overnight is best. This relaxes the gluten giving the pasta better texture.
- You can roll it out according to the type of pasta desired. In this case we recommend rolling out and cutting into lasagna sheets.
Oxtail- if you can’t get oxtail you can substitute beef shin or beef short rib instead.
1x packet tomato paste
3x large sticks of celery
3x large carrots
3x large garlic cloves
500ml red wine
2x dissolved stock cubes
2x bay leaves
3x whole peppercorns
Fresh rosemary and thyme
- Dust meat in flour and sear in hot pan until caramelized
- Place meat in roasting tray
- De-glaze pan with dissolved stock, wine and tomato paste add to roasting tray
- Chop vegetables, neatly if you want to leave it in the lasagna, and add to roasting tray with fresh herbs.
- Braise for +-5 hours
- Strain the meat from the liquid and pull off the bone, making sure to get all small bones and gristle out.
- On the side reduce the sauce to thicken, add the meat back into it once thick.
- Season to taste.
Simple Béchamel Sauce
- Melt butter, add flour making a roux
- Cook the roux for about 3 minutes
- Add milk in stages, whisking to make sure there are no lumps, until desired consistency.
- Season to taste.
Finally layer the lasagna in an appropriate tray/dish and top with grated Parmesan. Cook the lasagna until hot the whole way through. Make sure to get the parmesan on top nice and crisp!