Whatever next – a plague of locusts?

Nature can be cruel. Hot on the heels of May frosts (if frosts can ever have anything hot about them) we were hit by hailstones on May 31st. In Chablis there were reports of hail the size of ping-pong balls. That might sound perfect for bière-pong at a Sorbonne frat party, but it kicks up a stink when it hits the vineyards.

hail-in-chablis Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne

The vines around St. Bris, Irancy and the Auxerre region were also badly affected. St. Bris is famous for its sauvignon blanc wines and also Crémant de Bourgogne – the local fizz with which we Burgundians make Kir Royal. In general they are less fashionable parts of Burgundy but we have good friends there who are steadily improving the quality of the wines. Our thoughts are with them at what is a quite devastating time.

Irancy however makes some very good red wines, lush with the classic pinot noir taste of cherry stones. We happily serve it on Le Papillon and it stands up well against the great reds of the frost-hit Côte d’Or. Chablis is something of a conundrum in France – French connoisseurs tend to turn their noses up at it, (although the Chablissiens themselves never hold back of course) many claiming it’s only its popularity overseas that keeps it going. On that basis we’re happy to have overseas palates and it certainly goes down well along the canals!

All things considered prospects look gloomy for wine growers all round. It’s not just our ‘Cou de Forêt’ that is affected, the Loire and Madiran are other areas that have been badly hit. It makes us wonder what Mother Nature has in store for us next and the way things are going we wouldn’t be surprised if June brings a plague of locusts!

Then again Mother Nature can be very contrary. She’s made hard work of the French Open Tennis, washing-out days of play. We have to hope that she’s a football fan as next weekend sees the start of the European Cup with 51 matches played over 30 days. So without doubt we’re in for a ‘plague of football’ and by the time they’re a third of the way through you might just be feeling like getting away from it all. If that’s the case we know a very nice barge you could float away on for the week – give us a call.

In this such unseasonal weather for France, this week we’re going to cleave to one of the most Francophile recipes you can get to reassure ourselves we haven’t been transported to the rain forests. It’s a classic onion tart, as ever from our great friend Eleanor Garvin whose book ‘The Papillon Recipes’ can be acquired from Amazon.

TARTE A L’OIGNON – serves 6

Onion Pie or Tart Served with Grilled Halves of Onion and Fresh Herbs. Rustic Style. Image Toned with Vintage Colors.

This rich onion tart is simple and honest, for true onion lovers – serve in small slices alongside a mixed green salad.

One 10 inch uncooked pastry tart case

6 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

2tablespoons unsalted butter

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Scraping of nutmeg

2 cups crème fraiche of heavy cream

2 large egg yolks

Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C)

Melt the butter in a saucepan with a lid, add the onion slices, season with salt, cover and let cook for 20 minutes over a low heat stirring from time to time. The onions stew in their own liquid then start to dry out. Don’t let them colour – when soft and fairly dry remove from the heat.

Stir in the crème fraiche, add more salt if needed, pepper and nutmeg. Let cool for 10 minutes or so then stir in the egg yolks, incorporating them well. Pour into your tart base and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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