Chaque jour un coup de foudre

We’ve had a lot of weather recently in Burgundy. In particular we’ve had some rather unseasonal thunder storms. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant and a good storm to clear the air can be a joy to watch.

Distant lightning strikes over agricultural field

For those who are not Francophone the French expression for ’thunder and lightning’ is ‘tonnerre et éclair’. Nowhere near as dramatic as the German ‘donner und blitzen’ and nowhere near as good as names for Santa’s reindeer. Thinks – did anybody ever used reindeer to pull canal barges back in the day? Not sure ‘Papillon’ would make a good name for a reindeer, perhaps a bit lightweight.

Actually there’s a much better French expression for lightning – ‘un coup de foudre’, which literally translates as ‘lightning bolt’. However in common parlance in France, which as we all know is one of the most super-romantic places in the world, coup de foudre means to fall head over heels in love at first sight.

What’s not to like about that thought? It sums up perfectly the way we felt when we took our first trip down the Burgundy Canal. Around every bend was a view that took our breath away and made our hearts beat a little faster – much like seeing a person across a crowded room and thinking ‘he or she is THE ONE!’

Then we saw Le Papillon and had another coup de foudre. What a barge she is and what a love affair it’s been. Beautiful, classy, elegant, sophisticated and simply stunning. Then again as with any female of the species now and again a bit temperamental, the odd conundrum, a bit tricky to steer on occasion. That again is all part of life’s rich pageant.

So here’s a weather warning! Come to Burgundy and expect a veritable deluge of coups de foudres. You can be struck by a lightning bolt over a platter of cheese, a glass of wine in a dark and dank wine cellar, the beauty of the buildings of the Hospice de Beaune, a morning as the sun lifts the mists over the vineyards, even perhaps an old Dutch coaling barge named after a butterfly!

All things considered Burgundy is a dangerous place for weather. Every day you risk un coup de foudre!

This week’s recipe is one we fell in love with long ago, when cruising down south in the Basque country. It has a real zing on the palate.

Salade de poivrons au vinaigre de xeres

Red pepper salad with sherry vinegar glaze – serves 10 for a summer al fresco starter

Red bell pepper roasted on the grill.

Red bell pepper roasted on the grill.

When sautéing the garlic at the beginning of this recipe it’s important that the slices go golden brown but no further. or they turn  bitter. Have your sherry vinegar ready and deglaze the pan at just the right moment.

In the Basque Country they use spicy Espalette peppers – you can substitute red bell peppers. The ideal thing is to grill them on the barbecue or on a heavy griddle until the skin is blistered and evenly blackened.

20 red bell peppers, roasted and skinned

3 cloves of garlic sliced thinly

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons good quality sherry vinegar

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a cast iron skillet heat the olive oil and garlic slices over a low fire until the garlic is golden. Immediately deglaze with the sherry vinegar, Add the grilled and peeled peppers, season with salt and pepper  and cook the peppers in the sherry glaze for 5 minutes or so. Remove to a platter, cool, taste for seasoning and sprinkle over the parsley. Drizzle a little olive oil and serve at room temperature.


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