One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

Archive for January, 2012

Aside

Shit French People Say – Video

In my endless quest to ‘speak like local’ I have taken a lot of pointers from the following video. Very true. Could possibly do with a couple more putains though!

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Great graffiti

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Fishing trip à Les Goudes

So as many who know me will testify, I have a slight (!!) obsession with sea fishing. I personally find it a great way to relax and unwind, and I also think it is a very intelligent sport. It takes a lot of knowledge to understand the habitats that fish can be found in, their eating patterns, how the conditions and weather can affect their behaviour and so on. I also love eating fish, and I don’t think anything comes close to catching a fresh fish, killing it respectfully and humanely and eating it that day.

Since arriving in Marseille I have quickly realised that all of the knowledge and techniques that I had learnt to use in the UK was now redundant, and I had to relearn a new way of fishing the mediterranean way. The species are also completely different, with far more variety than I am used to in the UK. For those interested a great resource to demonstrate the different species can be found HERE.  Luckily I have friends and family out here that are more than happy to show me some of the techniques and take me out fishing. One friend invited me out yesterday on his boat, moored in Les Goudes – a small traditional harbour in the Calanques south of Le Pointe Rouge.

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My friend has a great knowledge of the local area, having lived in Les Goudes all of his life. Having not really seen a lot of the Calanques from the sea, I was more than happy to see some of the rock formations and isolated inlets that I had heard so much about. The weather was not great as my pictures below will testify, but the sea was pretty calm to it was very comfortable fishing.

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We were fishing using a very old and basic technique, which in the UK we call trolling. The basic concept is using a lure to mimic the actions and movements of a small fish, which you pull along on a long line following a slow-moving boat. This type of fishing targets aggressive predator fish – which around Marseille includes Loup/ bar (Sea Bass), Liche, Barracuda, Denti,  Bonitou (Bonnito / Tunny) and Maquereau (Mackerel and king mackerel). The technique is incredibly simple, with a single weighted hook with a long fish-shaped latex body which flaps as it is pulled through the sea. My friend told me that the old fisherman used to use pig skin instead of the latex.

We then slowly chugged around the coast and islands whilst the lure followed us about 300 Yards behind.

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Although the fishing was pretty slow, with just a couple of small bites, the scenery more than made up for it with stunning rock formation, bird life and beautiful clear water…

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My friend also talked to me at length about the new changes to the area that will be coming in to force with the new National Park status. I posted a report hosted by the BBC about the opinions of the locals about these changes in a previous post which can be found HERE.   My friend said many locals living in Les Goudes and the surrounding areas are very concerned about the forceful way that the National Park changes  have been made (by Parisian authorities), and feel their voices have not been heard. The area is incredibly sensitive, and the changes mean that all the local boats will no longer be allowed to fish in the area for pleasure, whereas many professional outfits who take more fish and cause greater damage are allowed in, by buying expensive licenses. Even though there are already rules in place to restrict the type of commercial fishing, we saw a few examples of these rules being broken on our small trip out.

My friend was also worried about the impact of an increase in tourism to the area due to the National Park status, and what effect that will have on the fragile environment. The National Park status has already changed the restrictions on building in the area, and new developments have already started appearing in Les Goudes and the surrounding areas – many owned as second of third homes to wealthy people living outside of the area. This has also had a knock on effect to the house prices in the area, meaning children whose families have lived in Les Goudes their entire lives are priced out of the market, due to properties being snapped up by wealthy people from outside the local area as investment potential.

We also saw a few buildings along the stretch of coastline, who have been bought up by compulsory orders during the National Park takeover, which many local residents fear will be made into hotels and leisure complexes in the coming years.

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Back to the fishing, and unfortunately we didn’t catch anything! I have been told countless times that the fish of the mediterranean are very ‘particular’, so this obviously wasn’t our day! Still a wonderful trip, and a great chance to get some local knowledge on the area and opinion on the coming National Park changes from people who have lived in the area their whole lives.


Sunset in The Catalans

Sorry for not updating this for a little while. I have been a little busy lately. Here is a little recap of recent events…

Last Thursday I went to the inauguration of the new Marseille office for the Sea Shepard organisation in Le Point Rouge. I have admired the work of the organisation for a long time, and have wanted to get involved – so it was great to meet and listen to the people running this new local branch. It really is terrible some of the damage that is being done to our seas and oceans, and I believe any organisation that can help raise awareness and educate people, as well as take direct action is very much needed. Especially in the current climate of weak politicians, corruption and lobbying.

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My Fiancé was working on Saturday, so I spent a lovely afternoon down at my yacht club in the Catalans area of Marseille. It made me realise how lucky I am to have such lovely friends and extended family around me, and how welcoming everyone is here. The weather was great, and watching the sun go down over the Islands is always magical. The thing is, many people seem to take this kind of scenery and sunsets for granted here, seeing as it is an almost daily occurrence. I think it will take me a while to feel the same.

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Englishman attempts French cooking

Now I am pretty sure I have mentioned before in previous posts of my undying love for French cooking. With a few days off last week I decided to attempt one of the most sacred of French dishes; Boeuf Bourguignon. Not only that but I decided to invite around my fiancés father to try it. He is infamous for not beating around the bush and telling you exactly what he thinks of something, no matter if it hurts your feelings slightly… what was I thinking?

After collecting the ingredients I researched the recipe on a number of different websites, both French and English. This instilled further fear in my mind as each seemed to follow totally different techniques, ingredients and cooking times. I  decided to take a median of all of the them and ‘vibe it’ as I went along. Hmmmm.

I started off by cutting a trimming some prime beef cuts from my local Boucherie.

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I then started on the marinade by heating some olive oil and added a large chopped onion, 3 carrots chopped into 3 inch chunks and 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic. I fried these for a few minutes, before adding 1 bottle of Burgundy wine. I chose a wine in the higher price range of my local wine shop, and tried to choose a wine which had a punchy strong flavour. In hindsight I should have consulted the wine merchant, as the flavour of the wine could have been a lot stronger.I will blame this on my poor French reading skills, when attempting to read the label descriptions!

I added to this a Bouquet Garni to infuse some more flavours. I then brought this to the boil, and simmered these for around 20 minutes, before removing from the heat and setting aside to cool.

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I placed all the beef cuts evenly in a pot and, once the marinade had cooled I poured this over the beef. I then covered with cling film and placed in the fridge to marinade away. This sat in my fridge for around 36 hours in total.

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This gave me a bit of time to burn, so with the weather fine I had a stroll down to Malmousque and Le Petite Nice, which is my closest beach at about 5 – 10 mins walk. Beautiful…

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Around mid afternoon the next day I set about finishing off the Boeuf Bourguignon, ready for my difficult dinner guest that evening. I removed the marinated meat, and fished out the meat pieces from the sauce and left them to dry on some kitchen towel. Once dry I coated them in flour and fried them in a pan with a little oil and a pack of lardons (small cut bacon pieces). The idea is to seal the meat rather than fully cook it, so that it absorbs more flavour during the slow cook to follow. I then popped these in a large pan and reunited it with the sauce and started to bring this all back to the boil. Using the frying pan I then lightly fried 6 shallots, which I then added whole. Once this had heated to almost boiling point I dropped the heat and slow cooked this for around 4 hours.

With 1 hour to serving I added 6 small button mushrooms and tasted the sauce for seasoning. Once I was satisfied with the look and taste of the sauce, and the meat had reached the point where it fell apart very easily when poked by a fork I dropped the heat and cooked some past to accompany.

The meal went down better than expected, with the only criticism being the lack of seasoning and the use of a stronger flavoured wine. Pretty good I think. I hope I have changed some people’s opinions of the English having no clue about food!

 

Next week: Coq au vin… Or maybe not!!!


Thank you Aix

After a tip-off from people on a local message board, I have finally found somewhere which sells one of main things (beyond friends & family) I have missed from the UK. Real Ale.

For any non-Brits reading this who might not be aware of what ale is, it is basically a connoisseurs beer often prepared without additives and chemicals often found in lager. Ale comes in many different flavours and colours by different small to medium craft brewing companies. Much as the French love a fine wine, ale is similar in its sophisticated flavours and passionate following.

After a trip to Aix En Provence today I managed to find a small boutique selling beers from all around the world, entitled, aptly ‘Beer World’. I have now stocked up on some of the brands I liked, so I’m very happy. I’m hoping to convert French friends to the merits if ale later… Wish me luck!

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I Love This… “We are in France. We speak French.”