We eventually made it to our holiday chalet in Ressons Le Long, near Soissons. We have a small caravan here which we usually squeeze into, but since the arrival of little Sophie 3 months ago we realised it was a step too far for the little van so we've borrowed a friends' chalet.
I say 'eventually' because it took us 10 hours to drive from Hebburn to Harlow where we had an overnight stay at Lenny Henry's place! Our first stop to settle little Sophie was Washington Services, we didn't even make it out of Tyne and Wear!
Anyway, we made it (can't wait for the return journey and yet more bloody Burger King/KFC in every Godforsaken Services!). After the culinary wasteland of car journey's through England it is always a pleasure to step into a French Supermarket (the air-conditioning helps as well!). To walk around and be greeted with such a range of beautiful produce is a real treat.
The quality of French beef is also pretty high, although nothing beats British Beef! I knew that for the first barbecue of the holiday I needed a special piece of meat and so this 1-rib piece of beef fit the bill perfectly!
For years I made hard work of barbecues (the phrase 'buzzing around like a blue-arsed fly' springs to mind!); turning meat on the barbie whilst running backwards and forwards (repeatedly cracking my head off the caravan door frame) trying to boil spuds/prep all manner of side dishes! By the time I poured myself into my chair to eat it, I was as sick as a chip!
I'm not sure how or when I realised that it didn't have to be this way (I must have had a rare moment of clarity!), but as I sat thinking about what to do with my supermarket horde I realised that I didn't need anything else other than a big lump of meat and a tomato salad! It is a revelation which will forever improve my barbecuing life. Although I've had loads of bad barbecue experiences, the lure of making fire and cooking over it is always appealing ('unga-bunga' as a cartoon caveman captain once said!).
This meal was an absolute delight, the quality of the tomatoes needed little else than a bunch of rocket and a simple dressing made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar.
The Beef simply heavily seasoned with sea salt and black pepper and cooked over a raging hot barbecue.
I've had mixed results cooking steaks on the barbie before as it is crucial that the temperature is so high. However I've discovered ( thanks to a tip from my brother) that if you pile the coals in a mound in the centre and light it, it lights really easily and then once up to temperature you can level them and start cooking. If you're cooking a few different items you can stack the coals higher on one side or the other as needed based on browning needed/cooking times. Another tip is to buy lumpwood charcoal, not briquettes and certainly not that poisonous pre-soaked stuff that billows out fumes for 45 minutes!
There's no need for a recipe for this one, just cook your beef the way you like it. I like medium-rare but I did this rib medium-well to accommodate Sam and Mandy! Serve with a tomato salad and a bottle of wine! I had a slightly ropey bottle of rosé. I know nothing about wine but I'm trying to learn. I know that a red wine would have been more suited to the beef but I can only drink a glass of red, whereas I can happily finish the bottle of rosé, decision made!
Here's a few more photos of some of the food we've eaten just in case I can't blog again from France. (The wifi in this part of France is about as predictable as the French motorists!).
Mille feuille - looked more impressive than it tasted. Slightly synthetic tasting creme pat.
Maroilles - Stinky cheese on bread, yum!
Sunday patisserie goodies - the little patisserie near the Cathedral in Soissons make a special effort to attract the worshippers after mass! A strawberry tart with a biscuit base, mango tart and another Mille Feuille. (I judge a patisserie on the quality of their Mille Feuille!)
Hopefully I'll be able to post again this holiday but the combination of the dodgy wifi and equally dodgy 'blogger' app is adding unnecessary levels of stress to these sunny days!