Expat Profile: Sinéad Allart of Wilde Kitchen
This month I’ve been talking to Sinéad Allart of the Wilde Kitchen Cookery School, which you’ll find in the heart of Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula.
To begin with I asked Sinéad if, being a cook, it was the food that had brought her to Normandy.
No it wasn’t actually. Normandy was a kind of compromise, because my husband Philippe is Belgian and I’m Irish, so this is kind of between the two!
So what sets the food of Normandy apart from that of other regions of France?
Here in Normandy we use the best of what is fresh, locally available and only quality ingredients, which may often be quite simple, but are always tasty and contribute to the wonderful reputation of our produits de terroir.
Could you give us a few examples of these produits de terroir?
Calvados features regularly and gives Norman cooking its unique flavour. One example which springs to mind is Tripes à la mode de Caen, which is tripe braised in cider and calvados for hours on end, giving a melt-in-your-mouth result, you should try it, it’s wonderful!
Mont St Michel is also renowned for its omelette à la Mère Poulard… in which the egg whites and yolks are simply beaten separately before cooking giving the omelette a much lighter consistency.
Omelette à la Mère Poulard – Image credit: keldelice.com
Out here in the Normandy countryside, no part of the pig goes to waste. Even the ears are eaten and a paté de tête is, as the name suggests, head paté made from the pig’s head! And then there’s black pudding, boudin, which is made from the blood and intestines and often served with apple sauce. Then there’s Andouille de Vire, or chitterling, which is definitely something of a delicacy. It’s made from the pig’s stomach and intestines, the bundles of gut are tied, encased in more intestine and smoked over an open fire for up to six weeks, before being simmered with herbs for up to eight hours. It’s usually served as a starter.
Then there are our cheeses such as Camembert, Livarot, Pont L’Évêque and Neufchatel.
When it comes to dessert, which follows the cheese course here in France, what else would you expect in a region famous for its apple orchards, but a deliciously simple tarte aux pommes? Then there’s teurgoule which is a rice pudding made from full fat milk, flavoured with cinnamon and baked for hours in the bread oven as it cools down after a bread making session…
Teurgoule – Image credit: culturemag.fr
Lastly, what do you think represents Normandy on a plate and would you share a recipe with us?
Well, I think I’d have to go for Poulet Vallée d’Auge. Any dish which is À la Normande or Vallée d’Auge generally includes cream and butter, and sometimes mushrooms too. This is chicken with cream, calvados and apples and it’s a rich dish with nothing nouvelle cuisine about it. You can also cook other poultry in the same way – guinea fowl, cockerel, etc.
A recipe from Normandy: Poulet Vallée d’Auge
Image credit: normandyinsite.com
For 6 people
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 75g/3 ozs of butter
– 2 onions, finely chopped
– 6 chicken pieces (breasts, thighs or legs, or a mix of pieces)
– 1 small glass of Calvados
– 500 ml/1 pint of dry cider
– 500 g/1 lb of mushrooms, finely sliced
– 500 ml/1 pint of crème fraîche/double cream
– salt and pepper
– a few shelled walnuts (optional)
– 675 g/1 ½ lbs of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
– 2-3 tsp of light muscovado sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.
- Heat about half the butter in a pan and add 1 lb/450 g of apples. As they soften, add the sugar.
- In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the olive oil with a little butter. Add the chopped onions and the chicken pieces, browning them all over.
- Heat the calvados and pour over the chicken. Ignite the alcohol to flamber the dish. Add the cider and the fried apples.
- In a separate pan, melt the remaining butter and fry the mushrooms until they render their juice.
- Add the mushrooms, cider and the shelled walnuts to the chicken, season lightly, cover and place in the oven.
- Cook gently for about 45 mins. Just before serving, add the crème fraîche, heat gently and garnish with parsley.
- Serve with puréed potatoes (with a little hazelnut oil).
Bon appétit !
Well, that sounds absolutely mouth-watering, thank you so much Sinéad. Here is Sinéad’s website if you want to learn more about her.