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.