A Week In France

What is with French toilets? I couldn’t believe when I pulled over into a service station that the ‘facilities’ were just a hole in the ground. Some had actual toilets but not once did I encounter a toilet seat and I felt like a kid at Christmas if there was toilet paper available. Anyway, enough about toilets.

I stayed in a gorgeous villa overlooking the French Pyrenees, which provided some lovely views for the duration of my holiday. I must say though, the Lake District on our own green and pleasant land is much more beautiful, at least in my opinion. We were blessed with amazing weather though which meant plenty of time sunbathing and splashing about in the pool.

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All the local restaurants were advertising their own version of cassoulet, a meat and bean stew rich with duck fat. I was desperate to try some authentic French food so ordered it one evening. This one had a duck leg, some pork belly, a local sausage and a garlic crouton. It was absolutely delicious, though completely inappropriate for the 30° heat.

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Of course I also just had to sample a crepe whilst in the land of the creperie. I was really boring and went for Nutella but it was yummy. I had this with an amazing hot chocolate.

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On the drive home we stopped at a restaurant called Poivre Rouge, which was a bit like an upmarket Harvester. The menu had lots of grill options but there was also a salad bar that you could pay once for then take as many trips as you like. I didn’t go for it, but saw the locals tucking into escargot and massive prawns from it. I had fillet steak which was amazing and the chips were these strange little curved tube type things.

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What I did like about French service stations, toilets aside, was the food options. They’re much better than the English counterparts. On one stop I had a really really good burger, and another had this hot dog with mustard, bacon and cheese which they served hot, with an apple tart which was very nice.

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Other than that, I ate a lot of pizza! The French seem to really love their pizza!

Recipe: Steak’n’Stuff

Despite my recent foray into the wonderful world of veganism, I can’t deny myself some good steak now and then. Hey, if we don’t eat cows there will be no need for them and the species will die out completely, so we may as well drink their juice and feast off their loins. I’m the worst vegan that has ever existed.

This steak dish is actually great if you’re on a budget as one steak stretches to feed two people, meaning it costs less and you consume a little less red meat. Win-win. My mushroom sauce is pretty famous now yet it’s so simple anyone could do it. You only need a few key ingredients and some store cupboard essentials to make a splendid meal for two. Whether it’s date night or you’re cooking whilst half asleep after a long day at work, this is simple but delivers a punch.

Serves 2

What you need:

For the chips –

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • a generous pinch of paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the mushroom sauce –

  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • a generous knob of butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • a generous pinch of mixed herbs
  • 60g cream cheese
  • 100ml beef stock (made with a stock cube)

For the steak –

  • 1 steak of your choice (I used sirloin)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tomato, halved

To serve –

  • Onion rings, either home made or otherwise

What you do:

  1. Start with the chips. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chip shapes. Put them onto a baking tray along with all the other ingredients for the chips, scrunch together and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180°c for around 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
  2. To make the sauce, heat the butter in a pan until it starts to foam then add your sliced mushrooms and cook down until they shrink and start to brown. Next, add the garlic and mixed herbs and cook for a minute more before stirring through the cream cheese. Let the cream cheese loosen a little before splashing in the beef stock and stirring well to create a creamy sauce. This can then be left on a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.
  3. When ready, coat your steak in the oil and season generously with black pepper. Heat a pan until it’s really hot then add the steak and cook it to your liking. This really depends on the type and thickness of the steak you have so use your instincts or the instructions on the packaging. In the same pan, cook the tomato halves cut side down. Be sure to rest your steak for a minute or two then cut it into lovely slices.
  4. Serve the steak sprinkled with some sea salt and then spoon the sauce over the top. Have your sweet potato fries, tomato half and onion rings on the side and enjoy.

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The ultimate man feast!