The Rise and Rise of a domestic God or French Markets are alive and well !

It’s that time of year again, we are in the mountains, but to be honest this year has been snow ( along with several days of rain but higher up, there will be snow). Being mildly incapacitated, Himself has become, nursemaid, cook, housemaid, chief bottle washer, and in fact Uncle Tom Cobley and all !

He has cooked very well, under instructions, not allowing me up to the cooking floor but keeping me well supplied on the lower level with wine, recharging my glass and asking instructions! Out of all of the meals, whether it be Tarte Abondance , Cheese Soufflé, or Cauliflower Cheese, he has absolutely surpassed himself, except on two occasions. The first was when he did not realise that there are several types of rice, hence ham and egg fried rice made with Carnoli rice ( Risotto) was a a trifle on the sticky side. The sauté de Veau, was however not his fault but the meat! Tough it was ! Too bad as the mixture of assorted sautéed peppers was great! And not mention the Moules ( Mussels) Provençal. Made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and of course white wine!And the piece de resistance was the fish pie.

Long standing friends arrived-from Brussels, Dinner on the night of their arrival was none other than Raclette! Aka heart attack central, but oh so good and cook your own is the way forward. But, the following night Fish Pie. He did go a bit off script, showing some independence in his new found freedom in the kitchen. We had bought, salmon, cod and large shrimp, but let loose in the supermarket came home with scallops as well! The result, was outstanding, enjoyed by all.

We ventured out one day to Le Marché in Thonon Les Bains. It is about a 30 minute drive from our Mountain abode, on a road, that I would be less than keen on driving at night, twisty and turning, gorges on one side, mountains on the other, still on a sunny day, not too bad!

The market is busy year round, even when the temperatures are below freezing. In the summer of course, there are many 0more traders and many many more shoppers. Summertime, means usually having to park by the lake, upper parking is always full but also very claustrophobic. Down by the lake is usually not a problem and there is a funicular to take one up the rather steep mountainside. One could easily walk down, but of course by then one has shopping! So maybe not such a good idea!

The market encompasses the whole spectrum, meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, fruits, plants, flowers, clothes, old clothes and general junk.

My interest is always with the food stalls. There is always a queue for fish, and I am amazed at the cost. I realise that cod has become endangered so become more expensive, but at €39-€45 a Kilo ! Wow, that is expensive! Cheese ( well we are in the middle of a cheese producing region) is always good value, and always a good selection of fruit and vegetables, usually more so and of a better quality than in the local supermarket.The one stand that is always popular is the cooked chicken stand, people stand in line, waiting for the perfectly cooked chicken. The only thing I can compare it to is either Marks and Spencer or Waitrose, both my local stores offer bbq cooked chickens, but not on a rack like these, but then also considerably cheaper, about £6.00 a chicken and in the market they are €10 upwards.

One vegetable that I was on the lookout for was Cardoons! They are not really well known in the UK. They are part of the Thistle family, the same family that includes artichokes. Whereas, it is the globe of the artichoke that is eaten, here is the stalk and leaves. I have only tried once to cook these, very much with mixed results. Himself declared “don’t bother, and not sure that I will but having found that they are now pre-prepared I might not give them another trial, not anticipating too much as even then, they do not look very enticing!

So back to fish pie, simplicity itself, but oh so good, made ahead of time and then baked to a golden crust, served with a green vegetable or a salad, what could be better?

Actually, although one could give an exact recipe, just winging it also works. In my house, or when I am cooking, it just depends on what I have in the freezer, so no two pies are ever exactly the same.

Take a quantity of fish, ( use, salmon, cod, Coley Shrimps, Scallops, haddock or smoked haddock) maybe for 2 people about a pound ( if any left over, it will keep or freeze for another day.) take some fish or vegetable stock or even better half bottle of white wine and poach the fish gently until cooked. Drain and pat dry but keep the cooking liquid. Boil 2 eggs so that they are hard boiled, peel and cut into 1/4’s. Then I always make my white sauce by the all in one method, in the microwave, into a microwave container put an oz of butter, along with an oz of cornflour, a pinch of salt and about a cup of milk, mix, put into the microwave and microwave for. Minute on high, stir and repeat, repeat this until you have a sauce, If it should go lumpy never fear, just beat and it will go smooth. If a trifle thick, thin using the fish liquid. Cook a couple of potatoes, again I cook then in the microwave, 1 large baking potato takes about a minute on high. Mash the potatoes with some butter and some milk. Now it is time to assemble, mix the fish mixture carefully with the sauce, so as not to mash the fish to smithereens, add the eggs. Pour into an oven proof dish and top with the mashed potatoes, this can be done by simply adding on top of the sauce and fluff it up with a fork, or try being posh and use a piping bag and a large nozzle and make the potato look a little more Sophisticated. Over this sprinkle some Panko Breadcrumbs and some Parmesan cheese.

At this stage it can be refrigerated even for a couple of days and then reheated until golden brown and hot.

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