Moules Marinières (or mariners' mussels) Recipe

Two great regional delicacies come together to form one dish that is extremely popular throughout the whole of France, and especially in the north: “moules marinières” (or mariners' mussels) served with golden, crispy fries is a real treat, enjoyed with a nice cold beer or a Pinot blanc from Alsace.

French fries are a genuine culinary institution in the North, prepared and eaten in the typical and very appealing “baraques à frites” (traditional stall selling fries). The mussels, little tasty shellfish, come from the Channel and from the North Sea, but other varieties are also present on the rest of the French coasts, featuring in multiple original and delicious recipes, including the famous “moules marinières”.

First, the shellfish are cleaned thoroughly, by scrubbing them under water, and then they are left to open on a high heat in a casserole dish, immersed in a sauce made from chopped shallots that have been lightly browned in butter, and then flavoured with parsley and white wine.

Preparation time: 25 minutes – Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 6 to 8
• 1kg good quality fries, homemade if possible
Moules marinières:
• 3kg mussels
• 70g butter
• 3 shallots
• 2 onions
• 2 garlic cloves
• 2 sprigs thyme
• 1 stick celery
• 40cl white wine
• 1 bouquet garni of parsley
• Salt and pepper

1. Clean the mussels, carefully brushing them before rinsing in water. Only use the unopened mussels and dispose of those that are partly open or broken.
Peel and finely slice the shallots, garlic and onion. Chop the celery and basil and keep to one side. Melt the butter in a large saucepan big enough to hold all of the mussels. Add shallots, garlic, onion and thyme, and brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Moisten with the white wine and add the celery, salt and pepper before leaving to boil for 5 minutes.
Add the mussels and stir well before covering. Leave to heat, allowing the mussels to open. Sprinkle in parsley and stir well before serving immediately with hot fries.
Advice: large bowls can be placed on the table to dispose of the empty mussels, as well as small individual bowls of warm water and lemon to rinse fingers.
Recommended wine: a light abbey beer, obviously from the region and served well chilled, or an Alsace Pinot Blanc.

The camembert of Normandy is more than a simple cheese !

The camembert of Normandy is more than a simple cheese: it has become one of the symbols of French gastronomy. Strong on the palate, woody, fruity, tender, soft... for more than two centuries, the small round cheese has been part of the psyche of an entire people and it doesn't go too far to say that it is part of the national heritage. The Controlled Designation of Origin (French AOC), obtained in 1983, has made it that this cheese can only be manufactured on its original Norman territory, following the tradition of using unpasteurised milk and moulding it with a ladle. 

All of these characteristics that link it to its historical roots, as well as many other particularities in the manufacturing process, work together to create a cheese that can be described as a symphony of unrivalled flavours. Creamy with a light bitterness, and a taste on the palate that intensifies as it ages, it is chosen for its light yellow interior; tender to the touch, it is neither too soft nor too firm. Thirty days before its use before date, the camembert is still young, presenting a chalky white centre that is still rather firm. With time it grows softer and, ten days before its best before date, more creamy and flowing, and very fragrant. Since the 1890s, it has been packaged in small boxes made of poplar wood.

Champagne... A prestigious name !

Champagne… A prestigious name, that of a region with an unusual past and sublime wines that sparkle before the eyes and on the palate, the essential guests of festivals and special occasions! An inimitable style and wines that have conquered the world: the originality of champagnes lies in the assembly of the "cuvées". Ruinart, Moët, Veuve Clicquot, Jacquesson, Hiedsieck… each house makes up its "cuvées" by carefully blending wines from different years produced from different grape varieties. The body and power of pinot noir, fruitiness and smoothness of pinot meunier from red grapes, finesse and elegance of chardonnay from white… 

This special assembly, both rich and delicate, is overlaid by the effervescence, produced by the famous "champenoise" fermentation method. Then, at the end of vinification, a liqueur is added to the wines, a typical sweet note, slight for the dry wines (bruts) and more marked for the semi-sweet (demi-secs). The dry wines, and the "blancs de blancs" (made from chardonnay grapes only), are drunk as an aperitif or with fish or shellfish starters whereas the semi-sweet wines are usually drunk with dessert. The fine vintage wines (millésimés) are more full bodied and can accompany an entire meal. The creaminess of smooth rosé wines goes with spicy recipes and the powerful blancs de noirs (made from red grapes only) are excellent with game. Serve them all well chilled in flutes, which are ideal for highlighting the aromas.

The croissant : The star of French pastries uncovered !

The star of French pastries uncovered, for the pleasure of our tastebuds: an emblem that will never flake! The veritable celebrity that is the croissant is famous for being one of the essential components of breakfast à la française. Golden brown, and with a delicious buttery-tasting dough that melts in your mouth, it is a perfect accompaniment for a good cup of coffee. Its origins date back to 17th-Century Vienna, Austria. Viennese bakers saved the city by sounding the alert when the Ottoman Army invaded. As an homage, they produced a croissant, whose crescent shape was directly inspired by the emblem on the flag of their former enemies. 

The beginnings of the croissant, of pastries, and of a delicious story: Queen Marie-Antoinette, originally from Vienna, introduced the Austrian pastry to the French Court during the 18th Century. It was a huge success. The original recipe, using bread dough, changed over the years. It was Parisian bakers at the onset of the 20th Century who created the croissant we know and love: flaky pastry very rich in butter and cut into triangles rolled up to make crescent moon shapes. You may know the all-butter and standard varieties of croissant, but do you know its sweet variations - the almond croissant, with cream and flaked almonds, or the 'diplomate', glazed with custard and garnished with dried fruit. Savoury variations include the delicious stuffed croissant, with ham and grated cheese.