Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Epautre vs. Apôtre

My mother’s mobility still being a bit dodgy, I continue supplying my weekly catering services on Sunday. In fact, I also prepared and had Saturday lunch at her home, three doors down the road. It consisted of a ‘tomate crevettes’ (fresh tomatoes stuffed with grey North Seas shrimps, crushed hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise), a mixed salad and pan-fried new potatoes. My mother had pre-boiled and peeled the potatoes. I put the rest of the dish together, presenting the tomatoes on a bed of green salad on a oblong stainless steel platter that fit perfectly in one the large shopping bags supplied by our local supermarket.

Today I’m trying my hand at something warm. Yesterday I boiled and shredded a chicken, made some tiny yet tasty meatballs using half-and-half pork and veal mince, an egg, bread crumbs and a generous dash of grated nutmeg. I also sliced up and sautéed 200 grams of mushrooms. This morning I made a white ‘roux’, using Irish (Kerrygold) butter, the chicken stock and the juice of half a lemon.

Another indispensable ingredient of ‘Vol au vent’ is the roux and a roux requires flour. As young housewife (back in the eighties) I would have used plain white flour. However, ever since I’ve discovered ‘farine d’épautre comple't in the nineties, I prefer using what is considered as the authentic cereal. I like it for its authenticity but also for the funny story that is attached to me discovering ‘épautre’, or spelt as it is called in English.

As I said, it was some time in the nineties. My friend and I were staying at our favourite hotel/restaurant in Habay-la-Neuve in the Belgian Gaume. Truffles were in season and I decided I’d treat myself to one of the starters containing the ‘black gold’. On the menu card it read: ‘Tranches de truffles à l’huile d’olive et au gros sel, présentées sur une tartine de pain d’épautre grillée.

Reading this put a grin on my face. My friend who noticed this asked me what was wrong. All proud and self-assured my said “There’s a spelling error on the menu.” He looked and looked again. “I don’t see it.” He finally replied. “Of course, look they wrote ‘épautre au lieu d’apôtre!!” I laughed. Little did I know then that ‘spelt’ had nothing to do with an ‘apostle’, although some of the original apostles, some of who were farmers, may have grown it! Okay, go ahead and make fun of me … I deserve it!

In my defence, however, I would like to point out that we do have ‘Trappist' and ‘Monk’ bread in Belgium … so the connection with the ‘apostle’ seemed like a logical one, doesn’t it?

The first and only time I saw spelt in its‘natural’ form, was in the medieval garden of the Donjon of Loches. Nowadays I buy the Michel Montignac brand … not that it did him any good, because despite his so-called healthy diet, he didn’t live a long life. 


Louise said...

Martine, your lunch sounds delicious...I don't know "spelt" flour here, but I will try and find it if it enhances roux. Again, this post is delightful, many thanks. Also, I am keeping my fingers crossed for you that the weather improves before your holiday in France, so that you don't need an umbrella anyway!

Susan said...

Do you happen to know what the difference between épeautre and petit-épeautre is? I had a discussion with one of the local boulangeres who assures me they are different and that petit-epeautre is a much older form of grain with a very low level of gluten, but I can't quite work out what they are called in English.

Nadege said...

I love spelt, Kamut, amaranth, quinoa, farro... I buy those organic grains at Whole Foods. I don't know what petit epeature's translation would be. I am sure H. Peter of "the celiac husband" must have an idea what it is since his wife is gluten intolerant.
I know you are a good cook Martine so lunch must have been delicious!

Nadege said...
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Jean said...

Spelt flour has become very fashionable in the UK. Nick has made bread with and I have made cookies, which were lovely and chewy.
Now I know what the name for it is in French !

Leon and Sue Sims said...

Its been sometime I said hello - but I do read your posts every time Martine.
So - Hello.

VirginiaC said...

I am not laughing at you Martine, we all learn new things in sometimes the most hilarious ways. It's good when we can laugh at ourselves.
The lunches that you make for your mum always sound so delicious.

The Broad said...

It all sounds so delicious!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Walt bought a boule of épeautre bread at the market on Saturday. The boulangère told him it was very low in gluten. We did some research about the differences between (grand) épeautre and petit épeautre. The former is spelt, and the latter is called "en-grain" in French and "einkorn" wheat in English, from the German name.

ladybird said...

Louise, Thank you. The weather is almost autumn-like right now. I bet your Australian autumn is warmer and drier than our spring.

Susan, I did some research on the matter, but in the meantime Ken as already come up with the answer! :)

Nadège, Cooking really is my hobby, and it helps to work with quality and natural products. A Michelin-star chef would look down on me, though (lol).

Jean, Food trends seem to be the same in all European countries. Probably thanks to all the cooking programs on tv.
P.S. How was your first day as a 'retraitée'? ;)

Leon and Sue, Hello to you too. We - your blogger friends - will be thinking of you when we get together in the Loire Valley in June! Hope one day you will be able to join us: let's synchronise our agendas!

Virginia, You are so right. Funny anecdotes are often the best way to learn. And thanks for the compliment!

Kathie, My mother really enjoyed it and that's what counts most to me.

Ken, Will you be backing/cooking with spelt flour in the future? Is it easy to come by in France? In Belgium only special shops carry it.