FROM GLUTTON TO GOURMAND IN TWO EASY STEPS…

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2. Gourmand.
Not quite so cheap (as in gratuit), but I bet, pretty inexpensive compared to the UK, was a night away a few weekends later, staying at the delightful Le Pont de l’Ouysse in Lacave near Rocamadour. http://www.lepontdelouysse.com
By treating ourselves (just me and husband) to a get-out-of-life-free-for-one-day-only card and aided by having no agenda except for deciding when to eat, it was spent following our noses and enjoying more of our corner of the midi Pyrenees;
First up, Tea in the tiny tea rooms in Gourdon, (look for the only tea shop on the main street) served in proper pots and big mugs, my favourite place to sit is in big armchairs in the tiny room out the back. Wander up the medieval streets to the castle at the top of Gourdon whilst you are there. Typical of so many working towns in this region, Big church, old castle, old winding streets and ancient buildings, but not a tourist destination particularly.
Next up, plate of the day of duck confit & salad at a family run restaurant in the middle of Rocamadour. (Mum, daughter, and granddaughter all serving.) Although it can be heaving in the height of the tourist season, spring isn’t so bad and I always enjoy the fact that it has a slight scruffiness and a low-keyness to it, despite being a major pilgrim centre and pretty amazing town perched on the edge of a cliff. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/rocamadour-shrine.
After climbing the 216 stairs to the church of Notre dame, we happened upon an impromptu duet by 2 members of a visiting choir in a small chapel – thinking it was a recording at first, we and the smattering of tourists were struck dumb by the beautiful voices soaring in the tiny vaulted space.
Ps, a hot tip for anyone visiting Rocamadour who can walk and not needing the tram to get up and down – avoid the tourist buses and crowds at the carparks at the top where everyone is looking at the view, and take the road right down to the bottom of town where there is plenty of room to park/picnic/take dog for a run. There is a tourist train in high season to take you to the first street if you can’t manage the hill walk up, and from there a lift to the church, and then a tram to the castle at the top.
There are oodles of other things to see & do around Rocamadour – Eagle parks, Monkey parks, Dinosaur parks, enormous caves and grottoes, but on the way to our hotel on the Rocamadour-Soulliac road, we stumbled across La Borie d’imbert http://www.laboriedimbert.com, a goat farm that makes a Cahors AOC rocamadour cheese, and then feeds the whey to a whole bunch of mud wallowing, snorting, greedy pigs that you can visit in the fields. Actually a fascinating lesson in food production cycles. You can watch goats being milked, cheeses being made, all for free, AND you can visit the nursery shed piled full of of snuggly, nibbly baby goats! Pop over the shop across the road to stock up on the fresh cheese and pig produce direct from source…
So a gastronomic day, topped by the gourmet finish of the 1 Michelin star meal at the family run Pont de l’ouysse; Hors d’oueves with cold white wine sitting on couches by the ouysse tributary, quails egg ravioli for an amuse-buche, foie gras, seared river fish with dainty vegetables, chocolate mille-fueille, tiny petits fours with coffee – it actually won the contest of how much delicious food I can stuff inside me, over how much is given. The service can be slightly formal-French and stuffy, but we take no notice – if you enjoy talking about the food and surroundings, the team will soon start to talk to you too. The young Sommelier was particularly full of himself, and got some information wrong, but this did result in me trying the best glass of (Louis Latour) chardonnay I have ever tasted because I didn’t like what he had selected. Or was it just the excess of fabulous food and drink talking by then?!

How to make Duck Confit:
A traditional method of storing Duck for a long time. So easy to buy in large tins by local producers here, but so easy too, to buy tubs of duck fat if you want to try it…

Legs and wings of duck only
Melted duck fat
1 bay leaf
Some thyme/sage/rosemary
Plenty of salt.
Put some salt and herbs in a flat container (and some garlic if you want to) and place the duck on top. Sprinkle with some more salt and leave overnight.
Brush off the salt and put the duck in an oven proof container. Pour melted duck fat over the top, you can use a mixture of duck fat and olive oil if you need more, as you need to cover the pieces. Cook in a really low oven (100°C/225°F) for about 3 or 4 hours. Leave in the pot in its fat and it will store in the fridge for weeks. Crisp up the duck legs in a frying pan when you are ready to use them, and keep the fat for frying or roasting potatoes!

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FROM GLUTTON TO GOURMAND IN TWO EASY STEPS…

1. Glutton.
The nice thing about living in France is that foodie pleasure can be found in many forms.
Take election time. Elections in a small village such as ours consists of being given just one list of the mayor and his team that you are going to vote for. So either you vote for them all and the vote is counted, or you don’t vote at all. Apparently, you can cross someone off the team that you really don’t like, but I’m not sure if that was just advice from a local with a vendetta!
So off we trot with our one piece of paper in its envelope, stand behind the screen and pretend to do something (I was humming your standard strip-tease music, but no-one laughed), before posting it in the box, and a few weeks later it is time for the village celebrations to honour the Mayor and his team, the conseilleurs.
Because this was happening around the same time as la fête de la victoire, the ritual began with a victory day observance. WWII Victory Day is a holiday to celebrate the end of World War II (when Charles de Gaulle announced the end of World War II in France on May 8, 1945.) and thus Frances freedom. They remember those who died during the war. Interestingly, no one died for their country from this village in WWII (so they read out the names of WWI fallen instead) as the actual war for the French was very short before they were occupied. But this is a muddy subject as this doesn’t take into account people sent to work elsewhere in Europe, the resistance, deportation…
Anyway, on to the new Mayor’s speech (except he forgot to put his tri-colour sash on to be all mayor-like) and the serious business of eating and drinking. Here is the Glutton and the pleasure bit. The new conseilleurs had gone all out to welcome the community. A lovely spring evening, lots of fabulous ancient faces from the older residents of the village, and a good sprinkling of young kids running around too. Not only did we have those favourites of mine, crisps and cola (see post 14/04) there were Quich-y bits and pate-on-bread bits and lashings of cheap rosé, of which I drank far too much… so it was very easy and a totally enjoyable evening to boot to be a Glutton.

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