May 06 2004

Letter from Brittany, May 2004


Dear Sally,

Here, in La Ville Doualan, spring is just starting to point out his nose. I found a lot of traces of snails but the rim of the shells are still soft which means it is the period of reproduction and we have to wait one good month before eating them! I will give you the recipe next month.


The verges are blue and yellow with violets and dandelions. I tried to make jelly with them which is funny and a very original present to do for your friends.

The fields are full of stinging nettles. We are eating them in soup and as vegetables etc. but did you know it was of great use for the garden too? It is a wonderful natural fertilizer for the garden as they are very full of nitrogen! Cut 1 kg of stinging nettles for 10 litres of water, put it together in a bucket and seal it. Leave it for 3 weeks. Then take the juice and use it as a fertilizer for all your plants or spray it over the plants to kill insects. Just one thing, it has a terrible smell, do that at the back of your garden!!!!!!

I put all over the garden some cups of milk to attract and try to keep in the area some hedgehogs. They are very good for the vegetable garden because they eat slugs, bad worms etc. but with our new little cat Achilles it is very difficult because he drinks the milk!


Last week I went to the sea and caught some scallops, it is not often you find some by yourself on the beach! Normally they are all fished by the net of the fishermen but when there are some high tides, like in April, some of them forget to go back to the sea and you can find them in the sand. I have to say it is not very often! And you have to be lucky, but it is the best you can eat.


As I was there, I decided to do my shopping from nature for the supper. There is in the rocks of the cliffs a plant called “La Criste Marine” in French, “Crithmum maritimum” in Latin. You eat only the leaves which taste a little bit like carrots, the less they are prepared the better they are. You eat them cooked or uncooked as salad. We find them the all year long and it is very delicious with fish, white meat etc.

I decided to make a “carpacio” with the scallops as a starter, and after that, a “cassolette of scallops” with Criste Marine and stinging nettles as vegetables. As a desert, we had a custard cream with elder sauce, all that done with Marcel’s eggs, the milk from the farm next door and elder’s fruits from the garden which I froze last autumn. It is such a joy to be able to cook and to eat only wild products. The wine for a meal with fish or shell fish could be a dry white wine or a “vin de Loire” red, serve chilled and fresh.

As yours, Marcel’s sheep had new babies and one of them will finish in my deep freeze very soon!

My son Marc offered to me a superb and very useful cooking book on salted or sweet clafoutis. “Les clafoutis de Christophe” it is in French but not very difficult to read. The recipes are simple, delicious and very surprising. Try it and tell me what you think.

Hope to have a lot of fresh news from the garden for you next month


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