I could have sworn that it was just last September when I decamped to Les Hauts de France, with my eldest daughter, youngest grandson and one of my dearest friends. But no, it was September 2019. My, how time flies when you are having fun! For a huge part of that we have spent confined to Barracks, or in other words, LOCKDOWN 1, 2 and 3!
Whilst on our Jolly ( #1 daughter, grandson and I were actually working, Suzette , she freshly arrived from Texas, along for the ride but ended up being the film crews #1 mate) . I digress, our first port of call was to old city of Lille, which more or less straddles France and Belgium. I say more or less, it is in Northern France but many Belgians make the daily trip across the border to work. We had a tour of the town in a Deux Chevaux and a good wander. We passed a shop, where the queue was around the corner and down the street. Our curiosity peeked, we returned on Sunday morning to check it out. They sold but two items, Les Merveilleux in ( 5 flavours) and Cramiques in three, (and maybe a croissant or two. )We felt we knew the Cramiques , a cross between a Brioche and a sweet roll, very popular in Belgium for breakfast ( and we had lived in Brussels for 13 years and thought we knew, all that was needed to know), but Les Merveilleux, we hadn’t a clue. So some were purchased and stashed in the boot of the car for future eating.
Unbeknownst to us, they were predominantly CREAM! And so after a day with the car sitting in warm sunshine, they were no longer Merveilleux, but Abominable! And inedible! Ah well such is life.
However, my friend and I discovered that there is such a shop in London Les Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington. A visit was required and some were bought. Certainly, in Lille, they make them non stop and all are sold. Not sure about London as, they certainly are not cheap, £ 3.40 each, but then again, South Kensington is a French enclave.
The flavours are
:- Incroyable……. Speculoos , cream and white chocolate
:- Impensable…….Coffee cream and coffee crystals
:-Merveilleux……..Cream and chocolate shavings
: Manifique…………Praline Cream with almonds and caramelised hazelnuts
:- Sans Culottes……Caramel Cream and crystallised meringue
:-Excentrique……… Cherry Cream and crystallised meringue
All of them are Cream, Cream and more Cream ! But Yummy.
The other delights are the Cramiques , Fred makes them, Plain, Chocolate and then Raisins . All of them have a sugar , which to my mind is very Belgian, but not just any sugar, but Pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is very common in Belgium and is always used in their famous Gaufres de Liège, which are wonderful, served hot with lumps of molten sugar !
I have yet to try making Les Merveilleux but have made the Cramiques, which thanks to my mini bread machine, (which did the kneading for me), worked very well.
Too much bread leftover in your house? Did you know that bread and bread products freeze very well? No room in your freezer and hat,e to throw away bread, then help is at hand.
New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.
This is a great way of using up stale bread and the plus point is that it also freezes well, even with the sauce on top. Traditionally made with stale french bread but any bread will suffice. The quantities are very much whatever you have. I used 6 bagels and half a baguette. Using a grater on a food processor, crumb the bread. To this add 3 beaten eggs, 500 mls cream ( or milk), 100 grms sugar. Then you can add any of the following, a cup of chopped apples, chopped dates, chopped soft dried apricots, raisins or sultanas. Mix all together and make sure that all of the bread is soaked. If not add some more milk.
Grease a loaf pan, pour in the mixture and bake at 180 C ,160C ( fan) for about 45 minutes until golden brown and form. Leave to cool, slice and serve with whiskey sauce.
For the sauce, melt 250 grms butter on the stove top along with 100 grms sugar and 1/2 cup whiskey ( cheap will do). Beat an egg until it is well mixed and when the sugar has melted beat in the egg into the mixture. If by any chance it should curdle whisk well preferably by an electric whisk, it should be fine.
Slice the pudding and pour over some of the sauce. To freeze, slice and place on a baking tray, pour over the sauce and freeze the lot. When frozen, warp individually, to use, just place the pudding in a bowl, leave to defrost and pop into a microwave for about a minute to serve hot.