Maitre Marcel

Because food is more than fuel for the body

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Cod, cabbage and chorizo

Although I now live in a small village near the Pyrenees mountains, I can get good fish at a fishmonger in Mirepoix.

The cod filet looked too great to resist. Cod can be bland and I usually spice it up a bit.

I had some chorizo left that I had bought at butcher’s who said he made them himself.

The cabbage came from the fresh market.

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Jol — small fish fry

When I was younger and not yet living in France, I discovered a small hotel on the Dordogne river (Hotel du Pont in  Groléjac) that served a wonderful fry of small fish. It was called “petit friture” which has the same double meaning as “small fry” in English as it means both fish and frying. There they used goujon, small river fish.

In the Paris area I sometimes bought éperlan, sprat, to fry. This came from the Atlantic.

Here in the Ariège, where most fish comes from the Mediterranean, they sell Jol, also called Joël or Athérine after its Latin name Atherina Boyeri. In English it is the large-scale sand smelt.

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A simple trick for good green beans

Green beans are full of vitamins and minerals and are not very expensive. They appear often on menus and at family dinners but usually are soggy and bland. There are not much vitamins left in them.

Green beans, like pasta, need lots of boiling water and then a short boiling time.

Putting the beans in some water with salt, heating to boiling point and cooking for several minutes is a recipe for grey beans without taste. Generations of school children ate those in the canteen. Many an office cafeteria will serve them that way as well.

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Mussels from the Mediterranean, a classic with a twist

We are moving from the Paris region to the Pyrenees where I have a larger kitchen to play with. The change in area also entails a different origin of products. Last week we were in Dieppe but while we ate well at a favourite restaurant, we did not manage to have any mussels.

So when I saw mussels on the market in Mirepoix, I bought a kilo.

A mussel may seem like another mussel but that is not true. The North Sea mussels or those from the Barfleur area are relatively small black mussels that turn yellow when cooking. These are “moules de bouchot” raised on ropes in basins in the sea.

The mussels in Mirepoix came from the lakes of Thau and Bouzigues near Sète on the Mediterranean. There they grow in suspended nets.

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Sambal – A chilli sauce with Indonesian roots

The other day we saw a big bag of fresh red peppers at the greengrocer’s for just one euro because some had a few spots. We did not hesitate to buy them to make homemade sambal. Sambal is a chilli sauce from Indonesia. Perhaps sauce is not the right word, it is more a paste. A thick sauce. There are many varieties and recipes, you can add many ingredients from tomatoes to shrimp. Here I kept it simple with just an onion, garlic, soy sauce and brown sugar as well as some sunflower oil.

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