French Cuisine, Michelin Stars And The In-Van Dining Experience

IMG_4668Even alien beings, who may have lived their entire lives in a galaxy far distant from our own fair and lovely planet, would know that France is renowned for its cuisine. It’s a fact. And if I had any to hand (facts, that is) I could expand on that point and reference how many restaurants there are per capita in France compared to – say, well, Germany, Finland or Great Britain.
Then I could go on to explore the proliferation of great culinary French chefs, but apart from recalling the names of Albert & Michel Roux; that one who lives in Oxfordshire (can’t remember – maybe he IS a Roux?) and that hairy bloke on the telly who smokes a lot, pretends to be French and does a TV ad for Knorr stock cubes (I ask you), I’m afraid I’m currently a bit thin on verifiable truths here.
Then of course, there’s Michelin, with its coveted star-ratings for top restaurants around the world. Which leads me briefly back to our San Sebastián stopover and the fact that many people in the know seem to suggest that the gastronomy of northern Spain far outclasses anything the French can currently offer, although most of that is down to nothing more than personal taste and opinion, of which there seems to be an overwhelming amount right now.
But all of this set me to thinking about the exceptional calibre of our own In-Van Knumpty Dining Experience as we’ve travelled the length of France’s west coast. It would have been amusing to have travelled this great distance on the aforementioned brand of French tyre too, as we could then claim to have dined out courtesy of Michelin throughout our trip (and made the more gullible amongst you green with envy in the process.)
However, having inspected all four wheels of our remarkable vehicle, and recalling that two front tyres were replaced just prior to our departure from the UK, then I’m sad to report that we’re now half-Michelin and half-Uniroyal, so what follows is a selection of our Melange Du Pneus 3-Star Dining Menus, prepared in-van almost exclusively by The Queen of The Road Map and Sometimes The Weather, when she wasn’t engaged in either of those two other commitments.

Tuna salad, ham salad, various combinations of light, freshly prepared lunches, always based around sliced fresh tomato, varied and exciting salad leaves dressed with a house-speciality honey & mustard dressing we call ‘Yellow Tail’, hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, coleslaw, cous-cous and whatever else caught our eye in the markets. And bread, of course (although that’s almost a separate topic in its own right!)

Baked chunky (nameless) white fish served on a bed of spinach with a hard-boiled egg and cheese sauce, new potatoes and broccoli.
(We asked for ‘Popeye’ in the green-grocers as neither of us could remember that spinach was ‘epinard’. It worked.)

Seared pan-fried duck breast, served with a fresh tomato and red pepper ragu followed by a cheeseboard selection.

Pan-fried duck breast (again, and yeah, I know, but we bought two of them in a market and they were huge so we shared one between us, twice, if you see what I mean?), sliced onto a bed of apple-sauce, served with new potatoes and optional side-salad.

Saucisson (well, sausages really but they were definitely more continental than those insipid pink Richmonds) served on a bed of apple sauce (yeah, you’re on it – too big a jar for one serving), sweetcorn and new potatoes.

Fresh gambas, cooked in-van and served shell-on with a house-speciality cocktail sauce.

A peppered veal casserole (it got cold in the evenings, OK?) served with plain boiled rice and caramelised carrots.

Tuna, shallots & peas with lemon juice in a white-wine creme-fraiche sauce, served with petis pois and pasta

Pork cutlets with sweet chilli and tomato paprika sauce and new potatoes.

Chicken in a white-wine sauce (unusually, not the M&S tinned variety!) with broccoli and rice.

And tonight’s specialite de la maison? A les resets cassoulet avec saussicon, pomme du terre et l’ognion all sauted en les haricot cuit du Heinz en sauce tomate.

In almost all cases, our In-van meals are served with a local wine, generally procured from the location in which we were staying, and rounded off with a square of dark chocolate and a cognac.

Cheeses were also acquired, but their strong French aromas filled the van every time we opened our tiny fridge, so they tended not to be included on the Menu Du Jour.

Merci beaucoup, Messieurdame, servis tu compris, bon soir et bonne vacance.

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