First published Canberra Times 31 August 2011.
Parisians don’t compromise on food and the mind-boggling choices available in its famous street markets are a powerful expression of this. The abundant selection of mouth-watering, ready-made foods means you may never need to lift a saucepan again. Locals are spoilt for choice with anything from rare, cave-ripened cheeses to freshly slaughtered game meats, creating a feast for the eyes and stomach.
A special discovery of mine made on a recent trip to Paris, is Le Marché des Infants Rouge, off the Rue de Bretagne in the Marais. This is reputed to be the oldest food market in Paris, built in 1615 under the rule of King Louis XIII. The name translates as “The Market of the Red Children”, and is believed to come from its proximity to a nearby 17th century orphanage where the children wore red uniforms.
This little gem is hidden down a laneway among a labyrinth of fixed stalls which sell gourmet foods of all descriptions. Here, the merchants noisily call out to each other, joking and singing and chatting with their regular customers. I find it hard to resist the plump perfumed strawberries or a choice of cheeses, the like of which I’ve never seen. The fresh North Sea fish sitting on ice beckons, but the charcuterie with its awesome array of delicious terrines is the drawcard for me.
The friendly woman who greets me at the counter cooks these terrines herself and is very willing to provide tasty morsels and to decipher the ingredients of some of the more unusual combinations. After a funny and good natured discussion in pidgin Frenglish, I am persuaded to choose the eschalot and Parisian honey terrine which looks light and delicious nestled in among the heavier meats.
She explains that this is one of her most popular terrines and describes to me the love affair Parisians have with honey. I learn that many Parisians keep bees right in the heart of Paris where there are fewer pesticides than in the French countryside where honey is traditionally produced. The flowers and plants are continually changed and revitalised, creating fresh pollen for the bees. It’s difficult to imagine that there are beehives atop the Galleries Lafayette, the Paris Opera and in many of the central parks including the Tuilieries, but they are there.
The eschalots used in this terrine are usually sold in Australia as “French eschalots”, and resemble small brown onions. To add some confusion, they are sometimes labelled as “shallots”. Be careful not to buy the long green shallots that are often used in Asian cooking. You need about 800g of eschalots for this recipe - I paid around $8.00 for this quantity.
This terrine is light, delicately sweet and is perfect for a lunch with some leafy greens, dressed with a white wine vinaigrette. It’s best eaten warm or at room temperature and served with the reduced honey sauce and a dollop of crème fraiche. The flavours in this terrine are great for a spring lunch matched with a light and subtle fruity white, like Viognier Nouveau 2010 from Clonakilla.
2 tbsp olive oil
250ml of white wine
3 tbsp honey, light flowery honey is best
1 large sprig rosemary
1 tbsp cornflour
1 cup crème fraiche
6 eggs, beaten
Pinch of salt and pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Extra crème fraiche to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Peel the eschalots, cut them lengthways into thin slices and sauté in the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the wine, honey and rosemary, mixing to combine. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes on a low heat.
While the eschalots are cooking, mix the cornflour and crème fraiche together in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, the salt and pepper and nutmeg and mix well.
When the eschalots are cooked, strain the honey juice, pressing down on the eschalots to extract all remaining juice. Mix the eschalots into the crème fraiche mixture.
Butter a terrine or loaf pan well, 25cm x 10cm x 7cm high. Pour the mixture into the terrine. Place the terrine in a pan half filled with boiling water and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
Just before serving add the balsamic vinegar to the reserved juice and boil down for 3 minutes. While the terrine is still warm unmould and slice with a sharp knife. If you have an electric knife, use it to slice. Add a few rosemary leaves to the honey sauce and serve separately at the table. Photos by Steve Shanahan